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Frank McCourt's PR strikeout

By seeking to cast blame on beating victim Bryan Stow, the Dodgers' owner shows again his tone deafness on public relations.

November 01, 2011
  • Bryan Stow was admitted with 0.176% blood-alcohol level and that is something that will be considered at trial, Dodgers attorney Jerome Jackson said.
Bryan Stow was admitted with 0.176% blood-alcohol level and that is something… (Beck Diefenbach, Reuters…)

Another controversy around beleaguered Dodgers owner Frank McCourt erupted last week when an attorney defending him against a lawsuit brought by the family of Bryan Stow raised the possibility that Stow might be held partly responsible for the beating that left him brain damaged.

"In 23 years, I have yet to see anything at Dodger Stadium involving any form of altercation that didn't involve at least two willing combatants," Jerome Jackson, the attorney, said on an ESPN radio talk show. He cited a report in Sports Illustrated that Stow's blood alcohol level when he arrived at the hospital was 0.176%, more than twice the legal limit in California for driving. (Not that Stow was driving when he was attacked.)

Whether Stow bears some responsibility for the violence that has left him disabled is for a court to decide. But Jackson's musing is unseemly and shows a contempt for a profoundly injured man, not to mention utter tone deafness to public reaction.

"I find it flabbergasting," Jackson said, "that there's this groundswell of animosity if not hatred toward McCourt and the Dodgers, but there doesn't seem to be any public anger against the guys who did the beating." To the contrary, what is flabbergasting is that Jackson doesn't understand the depth of fan anger at McCourt in general. As Jackson points out, the McCourts did not beat up Bryan Stow. But certainly Dodgers fans feel bruised by McCourt's woeful stewardship of the ballclub.

Stow, a San Francisco Giants fan who was beaten in the parking lot of Dodger Stadium on opening day in March, was hospitalized until last month, when he was moved to a rehabilitation center. His family filed a civil suit against McCourt and various Dodgers entities, contending that security at the stadium was inadequate and lighting in the parking lot was insufficient, and that the organization did not promote responsible alcohol consumption. Two men have been arrested and charged with assault and mayhem; they have pleaded not guilty.

It's hard to believe Jackson wasn't posturing when he said he doesn't understand why the alleged assailants have not been named in the civil suit. The Stow family attorney, Thomas Girardi, says naming them would only delay the suit because their testimony would probably not be available until after their criminal trial. Meanwhile, a civil jury can assign a percentage of responsibility to the assailants, even if they are not named in the suit.

McCourt's lawyers will surely come out swinging at trial, but they should respect the injured plaintiff. One of McCourt's problems has been his consistent cluelessness about the public relations effects of his decisions. Neither he nor Dodgers fans need to see his lawyers making a similar blunder.

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