EDITOR'S NOTE -- Atlanta Braves reliever John Rocker wrote this exclusive column for Thursday's editions of The Atlanta Constitution. On Wednesday, an arbitrator cut Rocker's suspension from 28 to 14 days, allowed him to attend spring training and reduced his fine from $20,000 to $500:
In a December issue of Sports Illustrated, I made several comments of which I am ashamed.
In reading the article, I realized that in three major areas, I have hurt people. It was unintentional, but nevertheless, there was damage done.
First, I used foul language, and I owe an apology to the children and families who see baseball players as role models. I've been a poor example. I was not raised that way, and that kind of language is not used where I come from.
Secondly, my comments concerning several different groups have left people wondering if I'm a racist. I'm not a racist, although I can understand how someone who did not know me could think that.
Over a three-year period, at my invitation, my home in Macon has been a home where players from different ethnic groups and countries have lived for as long as five months and as short as two weeks. The family of my best friend is first generation Lebanese. His grandfather came through Ellis Island.
As you can see, my actions do not support the racist label, but my thoughtless words do show that I sometimes lack the understanding to see the problems that other people face. I apologize to all of those my careless and unkind comments have affected.
Finally, my comments concerning my team were totally unprofessional and out of line. To the Braves management, to Bobby Cox and to the entire team, I am extremely sorry for the stress and confusion I have brought on the entire Braves organization.
An apology is no more than just words unless it is followed by actions. I hope in this coming year I may somehow redeem myself. A 97-year-old widow of a Baptist minister sent me this piece of advice, a motto she suggests I say daily: "Thoughts unexpressed sometimes fall back dead, but even God himself can't kill them when they are said."
I think I need to take her advice.