Wherever Alex Rodriguez goes, it seems, controversy ensues.
The 38-year-old slugger has been dogged by steroid accusations this year, although he has reportedly denied knowingly using the banned substances. And now at the appeal hearings for the 211-game suspension imposed on Rodriguez by MLB, there are questions surrounding dozens of "supporters" who cheer for Rodriguez throughout the day.
More than 100 supporters have showed up outside MLB's Park Avenue offices in New York City this week for protests organized by the group Hispanics Across America (HAA). They cheered for Rodriguez when he arrived in the morning, chanted while he was inside the offices and even held a candlelight vigil for Rodriguez. Many hold up signs with rallying cries like "Latinos stick together" or "[Yankees President] Randy Levine is the devil."
One of the protesters, a 20-year-old college student from Brooklyn, tweeted that he was “getting paid, breakfast and lunch is on the house just to support my favorite player A-Rod hell yeah.” He later told to the New York Daily News that he was not a member of HAA and a friend told him he would get paid for attending the rally. He later texted the Daily News to say his friend lied to him.
While supporters at the rally deny getting paid, they have confirmed that they're receiving free food. Mahdi Jaoui, a 21-year-old Yankees fan, told Nina Mandell of For The Win that he and his fellow supporters had snacked on food donated to HAA. But Jaoui denied any compensation.
Fernando Mateo, who heads HAA, has said neither Rodriguez nor someone representing Rodriguez is paying his organization to protest. Rather, he claims that Rodriguez is being singled out with an extraordinarily long suspension.
"The punishment doesn't fit the crime," Mateo said. "The face of Major League Baseball is A-Rod. What we're saying is, 'You know what? Punish him, give him community service.' We can deal with that. Suspend him for 50 games, we can deal with that. But to end a career of a brilliant man is the wrong thing to do. Don’t give him the death sentence."
HAA also came to Rodriguez's defense in 2006, when it campaigned to encourage fans not to boo or jeer Rodriguez.