TORONTO — Fired Sportsnet baseball analyst Gregg Zaun was “blindsided and emotionally gutted” by recent allegations of inappropriate comments toward female colleagues, saying in a statement Monday that he “naively” believed his language was not offensive.
In an “absolute apology” issued through his Toronto-based lawyer Stuart Ducoffe, the former Blue Jays catcher said he was sorry “for any harm or distress which may have been caused by my comments with any female colleagues over the recent past.
“It has never been my intention to give offence to anyone,” he said.
Zaun was fired as an MLB studio analyst on Thursday after multiple female Sportsnet employees complained about his inappropriate behaviour in the workplace.
“After investigating the matter, we decided to terminate his contract, effective immediately,” said Rick Brace, president of Rogers Media, in a statement. “This type of behaviour completely contradicts our standards and our core values.”
Monday’s statement was Zaun’s first public response to the allegations.
“I have done a lot of soul searching over the last few days and know that my ignorance of the harm caused by my language does not excuse it — for which I accept responsibility,” he said. “While I am well recognized for my unfiltered criticism of others within the sports world, which has made many critics and enemies — in ignorance I allowed a similar attitude to influence all aspects of my lifestyle, causing distress for female colleagues.”
Zaun’s dismissal comes at a time when allegations of sexual harassment are widespread in the film industry, politics and the newsroom with prominent figures such as producer Harvey Weinstein, broadcaster Charlie Rose and “Today” show host Matt Lauer among those accused.
According Sportsnet.ca, there were no allegations of physical or sexual assault against Zaun.
Two Sportsnet employees who spoke with The Canadian Press on Friday painted a picture of an offensive workplace environment where sexist comments are tolerated and women are afraid to speak up.
“Zaun’s on-air brand and image was based around aggressive masculinity so when he wore (undershirts) around the office and made rude sexual comments directly to women, or in close proximity of women, with the clear intention of making us uncomfortable, it was sort of implied: that’s who he was, deal with it,” said one employee, who did not want to be identified for fear of reprisals at work.
“I think he was able to get away with this for so long because as a woman at Sportsnet, you certainly didn’t feel empowered to report the inappropriate behaviour of a former professional athlete nicknamed ‘The Manalyst,’ especially to an all-male senior management team.”
Zaun was known for his no-holds-barred criticism of players and the Blue Jays overall.
Asked about the allegations made by the two women, Brace said via a statement: “It’s really important to us that our employees feel comfortable sharing their feedback openly and honestly. We are truly committed to an open and transparent workplace where everyone feels respected. We encourage anyone with concerns to raise them with us.”
In his statement, Zaun said whenever it was brought to his attention that he had demonstrated poor judgement or offending somebody with his language, he sought to change his behaviour.
“My remorse in the activities drawn to my attention by Rogers this week affecting unnamed individuals, is that it was never raised before and I naively believed that my language and behaviour were not considered offensive,” he said. “I regret my blindness to the impact of my actions that I would have corrected at the time, rather than allowing the harm felt to continue to fester.”
Zaun began a part-time broadcasting career with Sportsnet following the 2006 season. He initially signed a two-year deal as a MLB studio analyst with Sportsnet in 2011 and continued working with the network until his termination.
The 46-year-old played 16 major league seasons, including five years in Toronto from 2004-2008. He captured a World Series with the Florida Marlins in 1997.