The Washington Post reported last night that in February of 2015 Philadelphia Phillies manager Gabe Kapler — then the Dodgers director of player development — did not notify police of an alleged assault of a 17-year-old girl.
The report states that the girl, who had run away from home several months before, accompanied two women and two Dodgers minor league players back to their hotel room near the Dodgers’ spring training complex in Glendale, Arizona. There, she said, she was given vodka by the players, after which she vomited. Angry, the two women allegedly kicked and punched her and threw her out of the hotel room. Rather than come to her aid, she said, the Dodgers players filmed the incident and posted it to Snapchat.
After the incident, the Post reports, the girl and the girl’s grandmother contacted the Dodgers who directed her to Kapler. They each emailed Kapler about the alleged assault. The grandmother told Kapler that the girl had been encouraged to drink by the players, became ill and was punched and kicked. The girl said, “The boys got me drunk and the girls beat me up . . . Your player . . . videotaped it all.”
The Post reports that, rather than notify the police, Kapler consulted other Dodgers personnel and then tried to arrange a dinner with himself, the girl, and the two players. Kapler said in an email at the time that, “[w]e believe we can teach valuable lessons to all involved through this method of follow up.” The grandmother told Kapler that the girl had no interest in meeting with the players over dinner and the dinner never took place. There remains a dispute between the grandmother, who claims that at the time Kapler offered the girl money, and Kapler who says that no such offer was made.
A week after the exchange with Kapler, the girl, after talking to her case manager at Arizona’s Department of Child Safety, reported to police that she was sexually assaulted by the players while she was in the room, barely conscious. She subsequently refused to cooperate with police, as did the player she accused of the assault, who was represented by an attorney provided by the Dodgers. The police — who photographed the girl, noting bruises on her arm and swelling around her eyes — dropped the investigation. Because there were no charges, the Post did not identify the Dodgers players. At least one of the players is thought to no longer be in baseball.
Kapler, in a written statement to the Post, said that he was not aware that a sexual assault was alleged until he was contacted by a Post reporter this past week. He said that his actions were in line with club policy and advice offered by Dodgers’ lawyers and human resources personnel.
An attorney for Dodgers told the Post that neither Kapler nor those he consulted in HR and legal were aware a sex crime was alleged when they decided not to contact police, saying that “the Dodgers acted appropriately.” It is unclear how the Dodgers player involved could have been represented by an attorney appointed by the Dodgers if no one knew that an assault had been alleged, though it’s possible that those involved in obtaining counsel for him did not know that it was related to the incident reported to Kapler.
That notwithstanding, it’s fair to take issue with the attorney’s characterization because, even if Kapler and the Dodgers were unaware that a sex crime had been alleged, they were aware of an allegation that a minor was given alcohol by Dodgers players and that she was beaten up in their hotel room. It’s reasonable to ask, under those circumstances, why police were not contacted and whether that was the appropriate decision.
It’s even more appropriate to ask why Kapler, apparently with the approval of team attorneys and HR people, thought it was a good idea to try to set up a dinner between a 17-year-old girl and the two players who were in the hotel room that night. Again, even if Kapler was unaware at the time of sexual assault allegations, he was aware that an ugly, violent and alcohol-fueled scene unfolded. One wonders what he believed would be accomplished by putting the participants together in a restaurant and whether that constituted anything approaching good judgment.
This is not the first time Kapler and/or the Dodgers have been accused of poor judgment during Kapler’s tenure with the Dodgers.
Last fall it was reported that, in 2015, a Dodgers minor leaguer who was assigned to the Arizona Instructional League sexually assaulted a hotel maid. According to internal emails, the Dodgers investigated the incident and, by all indications, believed the maid’s account. Kapler was in the loop in those communications. The maid asked the Dodgers not to report the incident to police, but the Dodgers apparently did not notify Major League Baseball about the incident, which allowed the player to, eventually, latch on with another organization who was unaware of his history.
In 2017 it was reported that Major League Baseball was investigating Kapler and the Dodgers for allegedly discriminating against Nick Francona, a former baseball operations employee and son of Indians manager Terry Francona, for seeking assistance from a veterans organization which helps with PTSD. While no official comment was ever released, it was reported that Kapler and the Dodgers were cleared of any wrongdoing regarding Francona’s complaints.
The Dodgers, meanwhile, are reportedly one of the subjects of a federal grand jury probe investigating Major League Baseball’s activity in Latin America. There is at least some suggestion of criminal activity on the part of Dodgers personnel in information that has leaked from the probe. Kapler, again, was Dodgers’ director of player development during the period that is the focus of the investigation. He declined comment on the matter last fall.
It remains to be seen what, if anything, will come of this latest report. As it is, however, it is reasonable to have serious doubts about the judgment of Kapler and the Dodgers in connection with this incident.
UPDATE: Kapler has made a statement on his blog. He does not dispute the girl’s claim that she was given alcohol and that the other women in the room beat her up. Indeed, one of the players corroborated it. He says “The question of why I didn’t report this to the police is a fair one,” and then explains why he did not. People may differ as to the sufficiency of this explanation.
I’ve read it once and will chew on it for a bit, but in the meantime I think it’s fair to say that people may differ as to the sufficiency of this explanation. In the meantime, I think one thing is worth pointing out.
Kapler starts by reiterating that he was unaware of any sexual assault allegation at the time, framing it as “there is an allegation that I concealed a sexual assault allegation.” The Washington Post story, it should be noted, DOES NOT say that he concealed a sexual assault allegation. It, and at least all I have read since last night, is consistent in saying that the girl’s sexual assault allegation came later, to police, and was not communicated to Kapler.
I believe it’s worth keeping that clear. Both in fairness to Kapler AND to head off the notion that Kapler is somehow being treated unfairly here or that the facts are being mischaracterized to make him look bad. Which, regardless of Kapler’s intent, is something apologists tend to seize on in these sorts of situations.