Fresno Grizzlies

Grizzlies employee reprimanded for picking Memorial Day video showing AOC, dictators

The Fresno Grizzlies announced Wednesday that the baseball club has reprimanded the employee responsible for selecting a video shown at Chukchansi Park on Memorial Day that compared Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to dictators Fidel Castro and Kim Jong-un.

The organization apologized again for showing the video, what they called a “grievous error.”

Derek Franks, president of the minor league team, said a thorough internal investigation was conducted and that the video’s use was an error of negligence.

Franks said the unnamed employee wasn’t trying to promote a political ideology and that their organization chose to move forward this way “because of the person’s standing in the organization.”

Franks said he couldn’t comment further on what the reprimand entails due to personnel policy.

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Franks said he and that employee shared the same “shock and horror” as many in the public when they saw a photo of Ocasio-Cortez shown following audio from former President Ronald Reagan talking about “enemies of freedom” and potential adversaries.

Franks said the incident also prompted a revision of the Grizzlies’ operating practices regarding content.

The Grizzlies, the Triple-A affiliate of the Washington Nationals, have faced national scrutiny over the mistake. Washington Post sports columnist Thomas Boswell wrote a column Wednesday with the headline, “If Fresno Grizzlies don’t fire someone for Ocasio-Cortez video, the Nationals must.”

Ocasio-Cortez responded Tuesday by retweeting a Fresno Bee reporter’s initial tweet reporting the incident. She included a message that read, in part: “What people don’t (maybe do) realize is when orgs air these hateful messages, my life changes bc of the flood of death threats they inspire.”

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Franks said the Fresno Grizzlies “failed miserably” by running the video and that he’s working to “rebuild the community’s trust, one day at a time” but knows it won’t be easy.

“This isn’t a slap-on-the-wrist-and-let’s-move-on thing,” Franks said.

Franks said the video was selected in error in part because another almost identical version had been used previously. He said the employee who found it on YouTube watched the new, edited version for only about two minutes, which is before the photo of Ocasio-Cortez was shown.

The Fresno Grizzlies latest statement ends this way: “We fully acknowledge that nothing we say at this point can take back the harm and pain that this has caused. We have implemented new internal protocols to ensure that this never happens again.”

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Carmen George is a features and news reporter for The Fresno Bee. Her stories have been recognized with Best of the West, George F. Gruner, and McClatchy President’s awards, and nine first or second place awards from the California News Publishers Association. She has a passion for sharing people’s stories to highlight issues and promote greater understanding.