1. Archive

John Rocker's family doesn't deserve indignities of attacks

Published Sep. 26, 2005

As a writer, I stand in awe of the power of the pen. But the furor generated by the Sports Illustrated story on John Rocker, my nephew, astounds me.

I wonder if any members of the media care about the pain and suffering they have caused John's parents, Jake and Judy Rocker, who have not a racist bone in their bodies? They have to endure vulgar parodies on late-night television and on local radio portraying them as racist trash.

An Atlanta television station interviewed a psychiatrist who suggested John's attitudes and words might stem from growing up in a racist environment. Nothing could be further from the truth.

In a discussion with Macon Mayor Jack Ellis, Judy _ my sister _ said that racism or the lack of it is not defined by lip service and flattery but rather by whom you are willing to invite into your home. Judy and Jake Rocker have quietly backed up their words with actions.

For years, they have opened their homes at no charge for room and board to struggling Braves players (long before these players were famous) regardless of color or nationality. These players had limited means and no place to stay. Among those who have stayed for brief periods and longer are Bruce Chen, Andruw Jones, Odalis Perez, George Lombard, Glen Williams and others.

The Rockers opened their hearts as well as their homes to them. Chen said they treated him like a son, and he meant it. Numerous times, Jake would leave his work to go home and pick up Andruw, who had overslept, and take him to the ballpark for practice.

One year, when the Braves organization needed a place for their young foreign pitchers to stay during pitching school that takes place in Atlanta before spring training, they called Jake and Judy and asked them to house them. Isn't it strange that none of the so-called civil-rights activists volunteered their Atlanta homes, which would have been so much more convenient? No, the Braves office said it would rely on John and the Rocker family to assure the young men had transportation along with food and lodging for the duration of the school. Why not ask these young men what kind of reception they received from this so-called racist family?

The Rockers, an upper-middle income family, are not privileged with servants, chauffeurs or cooks. It was Judy who cooked, cleaned and did linens without the help of maid service. Neither do they have unlimited space. When John called and asked if Andruw Jones could come live with them, she gave up her home office (she runs a small advertising agency in her home) so Andruw would have a place to stay. Another player was already staying in the guest room.

I included these illustrations, not to exonerate John's thoughtless remarks, nor to paint Judy and Jake as martyrs, but to reveal to you something of the hearts of two wonderfully compassionate people who are being maligned and parodied by a merciless media that refuse to search for the truth.

Doris Staton English is a writer living in Dallas, Ga.

Cox News Service