Justin Turner, the Dodgers’ star third baseman, will not face any punishment for going back on to the field to celebrate the team’s World Series championship after he received a positive test result for the coronavirus during the title-clinching game.
Major League Baseball had launched the investigation on Oct. 28, a day after the Boys in Blue beat the Tampa Bay Rays to win their first championship in 32 years.
Turner was removed from Game 6 and directed to isolate after a coronavirus test he had taken earlier in the day came back positive. But when the game ended, Turner instead joined his teammates to celebrate the victory.
The 35-year-old has since expressed remorse for his actions, and the league has ultimately decided to close the investigation without suspending or fining him, according to an MLB statement.
“As is often the case, our investigation revealed additional relevant information that, while not exonerating Mr. Turner from responsibility for his conduct, helps put into context why he chose to leave the isolation room and return to the field,” MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred wrote in a statement. “I am closing this matter by applauding Justin for accepting responsibility, apologizing and making a commitment to set a positive example going forward. ”
Turner’s teammates had “actively encouraged” him to return to the field for the team photograph, with many expressing that they were “prepared to tolerate the additional risk” since they’d already been exposed to him, according to the commissioner’s statement.
Turner also believed he had received permission from at least one team employee to participate in the photo — something that may have been the result of miscommunication, Manfred said.
He was also incorrectly told by someone that other players had tested positive for the virus, which created “the impression in Mr. Turner’s mind that he was being singled out for isolation.”
Manfred also admitted in the statement that the league could have handled the situation better, saying that — in hindsight — Turner should have been monitored by security during isolation and taken back to the hotel sooner.
“Staging a baseball season during the COVID-19 pandemic is an incredibly difficult undertaking and it required significant sacrifices and an enormous amount of work by players, club staff and the Commissioner’s Office,” he said. “We all have made mistakes as we navigated these unprecedented challenges and have tried to learn from those mistakes so they are not repeated.”
Turner later issued a public apology over his conduct and was “extraordinarily upset by the incident,” the commissioner noted.
In his own statement released by the Dodgers, Turner said he was “blindsided” by the diagnosis, which happened prior to the eighth inning. He watched the end of the game with his wife inside a doctor’s office located in the back of the clubhouse at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, where the series was played.
While off the field, Turner sent out a tweet to fans, assuring them that he felt “great, no symptoms at all.” But he also described the experience as “surreal,” saying in the statement that while he was “thrilled” by the victory, he was “sad” and “confused” over the series of events that relegated him to the clubhouse.
Turner said he waited in the isolation room while the celebration was taking place on the field, then asked if he could go out for pictures. By then, he assumed few people would still be there.
“I was under the impression that team officials did not object to my returning to the field for a picture with my wife,” he explained. “However, what was intended to be a photo capturing the two of us turned into several greetings and photos where I briefly and unwisely removed my mask.”
Turner’s face was not covered when the team picture was taken, and no one else in the photo appeared to be wearing a mask either.
He apologized for his actions and said he should have waited to take pictures until the field had been cleared.
Turner was not with the team when they flew back to Los Angeles the following day.
Prior to to his positive test, no MLB players had tested positive for the coronavirus for more than 50 days. Neither the Dodgers nor the Rays have reported a positive coronavirus test since the World Series concluded.
The Dodgers organization has five positive coronavirus tests, USA Today reported Friday, citing the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
It is unclear, however, if Turner was among that count, or if any other players were affected, the newspaper reported.