Survivor has had its fair share of villains over the years. But it has also had a few people that have gone past that line of villainous play into something far more distasteful. There have been productive conversations about race relations —like when Jeff Probst (in one of his finest moments) mediated a dispute between Phillip and Steve on the Redemption Island season — but there have also been insensitive remarks hurled that have made viewers as uncomfortable as the contestants.
Keeping that in mind, I asked Probst if he was concerned that bringing in baseball pitcher John Rocker — who made controversial remarks in the past — might lead to more of that type of behavior. I had already asked Rocker himself if he thought that infamous Sports Illustrated article would follow him into the game, and now I wanted to see the host’s logic for casting someone with such a background. Probst was resolute in his support for bringing in the former Atlanta Braves closer, and you can now see and hear his complete thoughts by clicking on the video interview below.
“I find John Rocker a perfect fit for this show because of all the baggage he brings in,” says the host. “Not only was he a big time baseball player who people assume made a lot of money and had fame. But he’s also made some very controversial, polarizing comments about how he views the world. That is in its core, when you take away all the strategy and all the challenges — that is what Survivor is about. It is a microcosm. It is a social experiment. You take a group of people from all over the country, different walks of life, and you force them to work together to take care of each other and get rid of each other. So the easy answer is, if the group of people with Rocker know who Rocker is, or just don’t like him as a guy, don’t even know who he is, they vote him out. That’s the game. Or if someone else with more power says ‘I don’t like him and I want to take him to the end because I can beat him,’ then he’ll go to the end. The rules are made by the players.”
Probst also wants to make it clear that just because he thinks Rocker brings something to the show, that does not mean he agrees with the pitcher’s views. “This not me saying I condone everything that has ever been done and said by every person on Survivor. That’s not it at all. It’s also not me saying, ‘Well, what about having a couple who does this or somebody who things that?’ My judgments don’t come into play. I like John Rocker being on the show because he has massive obstacles to overcome.”
But more important than how Probst reacts to Rocker is how the other contestants will react. Will he be recognized? And how will those who recognize him feel about what he said. “I think John is going to be known,” says Probst. “There are already a couple of people who told me when we met right before the show, ‘I think that big guy is John Rocker.’ So I’m guessing it’s going to come out. If it comes out, the question is, who’s the one who recognizes him? Because some people may share his views. Or some people may be so young they don’t even know he said anything. They just know he was a big time baseball player and they love baseball. As I guy, I think forgetting about his past, John is polarizing no matter what. He’s 6-foot-5 with a big opinion and he’s a strong guy and you can tell by just the way he walks that he doesn’t suffer fools. So I think he’s going to rub people one way or another,”
To hear more from Probst on John Rocker, including the former Survivor player he compares him to, just click on the video player below. And for more Survivor scoop, follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss.