John Rocker on How His Controversial Past Hurt Him on 'Survivor'
By Lisa Lozano
(Warning: explicit language.)
Former MLB player John Rocker got the boot on Survivor on Wednesday, possibly in part due to comments he made over a decade ago that many perceived as racist and homophobic. He opens up to ET about how his past haunted him on the show.
Rocker thought he was safe at Tribal Council, mainly because his tribemate Dale was older than him and didn't perform well in challenges: "I assumed as long as Dale [was] there, I [was] protected. But it didn't really work out that way." But the turning point may have been at the immunity challenge, when Natalie berated his tribe, asking them to vote him out based on his past.
In 1999, Rocker gave an interview to Jeff Pearlman of Sports Illustrated in which he made a number of controversial comments, including criticizing the driving skills of Asian women, conveying his dislike of "foreigners," and sharing this quote about whether he'd ever play in New York City: "I would retire first. It's the most hectic, nerve-racking city. Imagine having to take the [Number] 7 train to the ballpark, looking like you're [riding through] Beirut next to some kid with purple hair next to some queer with AIDS right next to some dude who just got out of jail for the fourth time right next to some 20-year-old mom with four kids. It's depressing."
The former Atlanta Braves pitcher tells ET that he wasn't at all surprised that his fellow players recognized him and remembered his comments. "I was foolish enough to think early on, maybe if wear my hat low, and I'll kinda walk with my head down and I'll skate through this thing kinda incognito,” he says. “And then hour two of the first day out there, I [was discovered by Wes].”
He says he planned to combat preconceived notions by trying to “just be as nice as possible, as helpful as possible." He adds that Val, Jeremy and twins Nadiya and Natalie, all people of color, are who he would consider his best friends from the game.
He also tells ET what he thinks about pressure put on baseball and football teams including the Braves and the Washington Redskins to change their names, which some find offensive to Native Americans. He says he has Cherokee friends who tell him they don’t care, saying, “I’d like to know who, exactly, finds it offensive.”