by Ledge Slater, DP intern and stud
Monday, August 12th, 2013,
(WASHINGTON) — “‘Tis but thy name that is my enemy” proclaimed Romeo to Juliet in William Shakespeare’s epic saga of forbidden love. And over four hundred years later, Romeo’s quote still holds true, at least for one unfortunate Major League baseball player.
A month after a jury found neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman not guilty of second–degree murder in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, the ripple effects of the verdict have cost one of Major League’s baseball’s best players his job.
Continuously bombarded by hate mail, protests, and (mostly) a distinct drop in attendance, the Washington Nationals have terminated third baseman Ryan Zimmerman’s contract with the team, citing that his last name is “too disturbing” and “reminiscent” of the George Zimmerman—Trayvon Martin saga, which captivated the nation and further inflamed race relations throughout the country.
Ryan Zimmerman, whom many considered the “face” of the “Nats,’” with a batting average of .287 and 165 homeruns, was informed Monday morning he would not be playing for the Nationals after August. The once popular third baseman has received everything from hateful Tweets, Facebook messages, and even death threats due to him bearing the same surname as the infamous neighborhood watchman of Sanford, Florida. Zimmerman has been with the Nats since 2005.
Stated Washington Nationals’ owner, Ted Lerner, in a press release Monday:
“We regret to inform that Washington Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman will no longer be a member of the Nationals organization, effective September 1, 2013. Due to events in Florida and the media attention surrounding George Zimmerman’s atrocity and trial, Ryan’s last name has become a hindrance to the reputation of the Nationals team and has affected fan attendance to the point where we can no longer retain Ryan Zimmer… shit, we can’t even bear to say the name any longer …‘Mr. Z’ as member of the Nationals family. We apologize to Ryan Z. for this unfortunate decision and wish him the best of luck in future endeavors.”
Zimmerman’s agent, Brodie Van Wagenen and attorney, Joel Ebsteinenbergenbaum, said they and Ryan plan on fighting the club’s decision, but admits they face an uphill battle, as Zimmerman’s contract with the Nats clearly and unfortunately stipulates in clause #3,275–D: “Player’s contract is subject to immediate termination if player’s surname is in anyway associated, connected, and/or reflective on any nationally captivating criminal case in which nation’s race relations are stoked, be it a case of completely synthetically contrived bullshit or not.”
“Mr. Zimmerman had no choice with the name he was born with,” said attorney Ebsteinenberenbaum to reporters Monday. “To terminate an employee of any organization based on the name they share with a man that was tried for something the government never had evidence of proving in the first place is immoral and unjust. And we’re currently drafting a lawsuit against the Nationals organization. Our charge: profiling!”
The Nationals have agreed to pay Zimmerman the remainder of his contract in hopes of avoiding the lawsuit Van Wagenen and Ebsteinenbergenbaum are threatening. There has been no official statement yet from Ryan Zimmerman himself, however teammates and close friends of the fired third baseman say he is “very distraught” over his untimely release, yet at the same time understanding, as he had expressed since last March shame and guilt over having the same last name as George Zimmerman.
Yet, not all of Zimmerman’s teammates are sorry for his sudden termination.
Teammates, Fans React to Zimmerman Firing
“I was always a bit uncomfortable with ‘it’ …you know, working with someone named ‘Zimmerman’ and all,” said Washington Nationals’ General Manager Davey Johnson to Duh Progressive, Monday. “During practice, games, pep talks, it always unnerved me to see that name on the back of Ryan’s jersey. And since the (Zimmerman) verdict I couldn’t help but think when I was around him, ‘Damn you, Ryan! You bloodthirsty, depraved maniac!’”
Gloria Mulberry, a D.C. resident and Nats fan since 2006 said Monday she harbors no ill will toward Ryan Zimmerman himself, but “I just can’t stop myself from thinking of that man (George Zimmerman) and that completely unwarranted, unprovoked atrocity he committed on that poor, innocent, defenseless child,” said the 52-year-old NSA employee, Monday, adding, “...I just knew this was going to happen, somehow.”
“I haven’t been to a Nats game since the (Zimmerman) verdict,” said Sierra Johnston of D.C.’s Columbia Heights Monday to Duh Progressive. Johnston said she attends at least six Nats games a year, but in lieu of the Zimmerman verdict, she will be boycotting the team until it rids itself of the player that bears the verboten Zimmerman name. “If I would have gone to a game (after Zimmerman’s acquittal) I would have wanted to throw a AA battery at Ryan, you know? And I would have…if I had been a Yankees fan.”
Recovering from a 22–percent loss in attendees since the George Zimmerman verdict, the Washington Nationals hope their late-season termination of Ryan Zimmerman will assuage the anger hoisted on to them by the nation’s 75–percent Democrat population and regain some of their boycotting attendees. The Nats’ have yet to announce who they will call up to replace Zimmerman in September, but rumors are the team is debating between two of its hot-shot minor league basemen, shortstop Paul Deen, and third baseman James P. Crowe.