JUPITER, Fla. -- William Fowler said on Monday that he stands by the statement he made to ESPN.com two days ago in which he discussed the effect on his family of President Donald Trump's executive order limiting travel to and from seven Muslim-majority countries.Fowler's wife, Darya, was born in Iran,
JUPITER, Fla. -- William Fowler said on Monday that he stands by the statement he made to ESPN.com two days ago in which he discussed the effect on his family of President Donald Trump's executive order limiting travel to and from seven Muslim-majority countries.
Fowler's wife, Darya, was born in Iran, one of seven countries named in the executive order before it was blocked by the United States 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Fowler told ESPN.com that such restrictions could preclude his family from traveling to visit relatives in Iran and that it has delayed his sister-in-law's return from a business trip to Qatar.
"It's huge," Fowler said. "Especially any time you're not able to see family, it's unfortunate."
ESPN.com posted these comments in their newsfeed without a headline, but the story was picked up by other outlets, some of which misrepresented his statement and penned headlines that declared Fowler as unsupportive of the president.
This, in turn, incited strong reactions from Trump supporters, many of which made their way to Fowler via social media over the weekend. Nevertheless, Fowler did not back away from anything he said.
"I didn't say anything wrong," Fowler said. "I think it was taken out of context [by other outlets]. I don't think people read the article. I think people made their own [headlines]. The question was asked out of empathy to my family, and I appreciate that. If anybody is asking about my family, then I'm going to let them know that, 'Yeah, obviously it affected my family. My wife is Iranian.' ... I think it's kind of ignorant of people to just come at me like that and not read the article."
Fowler, who immediately became the Cardinals' most active social media participant, used his Twitter account to address the controversy on Sunday and countered the criticism with an online giveaway. He offered fans the chance to win tickets to a Cardinals Spring Training game.
"I think he handled it correctly," manager Mike Matheny said. "He was very clear that he was trying to make a statement about his family [and it] ended up becoming a political statement."
Matheny said the organization had prepared for the possibility that politics could seep into their Spring Training stay. The team's spring complex sits fewer than three miles away from the Trump National Jupiter Golf Club, and the president has visited the area each of the last three weekends.
The Cardinals had no issue with Fowler's comments, nor did Tony Clark, the executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association.
"Baseball players are a microcosm of society, and I was a grown man before I was a baseball player," Clark said. "If I have a view, I should be willing to share it, while understanding what I'm a part of and what my responsibilities are. Any player understands that when they take a particular position, it may not be a popular one.
"There may be pushback. That shouldn't be a reason not to have an opinion. In this instance, it's a very personal one to Dex. I respect the commentators that responded. I respect their freedom to respond to it."
Fowler said he still hopes to travel to Iran one day so that he can meet members of his extended family. He'd like to take his 3-year-old daughter, Naya, there, too. His wife wasn't much older that Naya is now when she immigrated to the U.S.
"I'm always going to care for my family," Fowler said. "And if a question is asked out of concern, I'm going to answer the question. And I'm going to answer it truthfully. It's not to hurt anybody. It's unfortunate that people think of things that way. I believe they're sensitive. I'm not the sensitive one. I appreciate the ones that understood."
Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Read her blog, follow her on Twitter, like her Facebook page and listen to her podcast.