Dodger third-baseman Justin Turner, who tested positive for COVID-19 during the team’s World Series-clinching game and was later rebuked for leaving isolation to celebrate on the field, will not face punishment from the league, which conceded that a variety of errors and miscommunication contributed to the situation.
Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said Friday the league’s investigation uncovered information that “while not exonerating Mr. Turner from responsibility for his conduct, helps put into context why he chose to leave the isolation room and return to the field.”
Manfred said Turner has apologized and accepted responsibility for his actions. But the commissioner also said the league “could have handled the situation more effectively,” potentially by assigning a security guard to monitor Turner in isolation or taking him from the stadium to a hotel.
“Staging a baseball season during the COVID-19 pandemic is an incredibly difficult undertaking and it required significant sacrifices and an enormous amount of work by players, club staff and the Commissioner’s Office,” Manfred said. “We all have made mistakes as we navigated these unprecedented challenges and have tried to learn from those mistakes so they are not repeated. With this in mind, I am closing this matter by applauding Justin for accepting responsibility, apologizing and making a commitment to set a positive example going forward.”
Turner also issued a statement, acknowledging mistakes in the post-game euphoria, such as removing his mask when greeted by teammates. He said he asked after the game if he and his wife could return to the field to take a picture with the World Series trophy.
“I assumed by that point that few people were left on the field,” Turner said. “I was under the impression that team officials did not object to my returning to the field for a picture with my wife. However, what was intended to be a photo capturing the two of us turned into several greetings and photos where I briefly and unwisely removed my mask. In hindsight, I should have waited until the field was clear of others to take that photo with my wife.
“I sincerely apologize to everyone on the field for failing to appreciate the risks of returning to the field. I have spoken with almost every teammate, coach and staff member, and my intentions were never to make anyone uncomfortable or put anyone at further risk.”
According to Manfred, several Dodger players encouraged Turner to return to the field for a photograph, with some saying they believed they had already been exposed to him “and were prepared to tolerate the additional risk.” He said Turner also believed he had been given permission by at least one Dodger employee to return to the field, and at least two team employees said nothing as he did so.
The commissioner also said Turner “was incorrectly told by an unidentified person that other players had tested positive, creating the impression in Mr. Turner’s mind that he was being singled out for isolation.”
“Mr. Turner has publicly recognized that his conduct was wrong and has expressed remorse for that conduct,” Manfred said. “I have spoken to him personally and I know that he is extraordinarily upset by the incident. By all accounts, Justin is a leader in the clubhouse, a contributor to his community and a responsible person who was instrumental in the Dodgers diligently following the health protocols all season long.”
That sentiment was echoed by Dodger President/CEO Stan Kasten, who called the post-game events “regrettable,” but hailed Turner’s leadership on the team.
“Through much hard work and sacrifice, the Dodgers were successful at preventing COVID-19 infections throughout a very difficult 2020 season,” Kasten said. “No player was more instrumental in allowing the Dodgers to overcome the adversity created by the pandemic than Justin Turner, as he set an example for his teammates and advocated for enhanced safety measures that went above and beyond league requirements. Justin’s leadership played a large part in helping the Dodgers safely complete the entire season, which culminated in a World Championship.”