About a year ago, over on the Ethics Scoreboard, I made former baseball slugger Mark McGwire’s brother, Jay McGwire, an Ethics Dunce. At that time Mark McGwire was still mum about his widely-suspected steroid use, and his brother was peddling a book proposal that supposedly exposed his home run-hitting bro’s cheating ways. I then wrote…
“… Brother Jay says he has written the book “out of love” for his brother, who no longer sees, speaks to him, nor, presumably, gives him hand-outs. Right. Jay McGwire is selling out his brother for cash. This is not a courageous whistleblower alerting a company to crime in its ranks. This is not a family member doing the right thing by refusing to help a parent, sibling, or offspring get away with child abuse, treason, fraud or murder. There is nothing admirable, selfless or courageous here. Jay McGwire wants money, and he is willing to embarrass and exploit his brother to get it.”
I had hoped that was the last I would hear of Jay McGwire, but once Mark re-entered the limelight by joining the St. Louis Cardinals as the team’s batting coach and had made a not-quite-satisfying admission regarding his performance-enhancing drug use, some publisher decided to make money off sibling perfidy. Now Jay’s book, Mark and Me: Mark McGwire and the Truth Behind Baseball’s Worst-Kept Secret, is scheduled for publication on Monday. The story it tells is believable, though it clashes with Mark McGwire’s account in some key details. Indeed, Jay’s version that has McGwire intentionally seeking out steroids to improve his power at the plate makes a lot more sense than his elder brother’s dubious claim that he only used the illegal drugs to recover from injuries, and still doesn’t believe they helped him hit homers. It doesn’t matter.
Let’s assume that Jay’s story is much closer to the whole truth than Mark’s. He is not exposing a crime here, or really doing much more than confirming what most non-gullible baseball fans already assumed. There is no counter-balancing virtue to outweigh the sheer disloyalty, betrayal, greed and crassness of publicly attacking your own brother’s professional reputation for personal gain. To make it all even more despicable, the book explains that it was Jay, a bodybuilder who had used illegal steroids for years, persuaded Mark McGwire to become a PED cheater, the decision that will probably keep him out of the Hall of Fame. Mark is accountable for his own conduct, but Jay led him down a destructive path. Instead of apologizing, he’s cashing in.
I am a great supporter of honesty, but where family secrets are involved. confidentiality has ethical priority. You should be able to trust your brother, your sister, your parents and your closest friends not to be the ones to reveal your darkest secrets to the world. We should have nothing but contempt for Jay McGwire.