Confronted with an accusation of sexual abuse against the team doctor, the Tampa Bay Rays could have quietly severed ties, declined to speak about the matter and gone back to business as usual. But the team took a far better tack by being forthcoming about the allegations against physician Michael Reilly that led to his firing. It’s a good reminder that responsible leadership errs on the side of transparency.
Reilly, 67, had been the Rays team doctor for all 20 years of their existence. He’s a prominent fixture in St. Petersburg, where he runs a private practice and served as volunteer football team doctor at St. Petersburg Catholic High School, until resigning Tuesday. A few weeks ago, a young woman uploaded a video to YouTube where she described getting to know Reilly, who is married with six sons, as a teenager. She first babysat for his kids, then went to work at his medical office. Over time, she said he "groomed" her for abuse — assessed her vulnerability, gained her trust, sexualized their relationship and maintained control over her.
While she worked in his office, she said his behavior progressed from gentle touches and back rubs to cornering her in offices alone and trying to kiss her. "Without getting specific, it just got worse," she said. The woman called Reilly’s actions sexual abuse. Reilly, who has not been charged with a crime, denied there was abuse but said he had a consensual relationship with the woman after she was an adult.
Without making a judgment on the merits of the woman’s story, the Rays dismissed Reilly and alerted Major League Baseball and the St. Petersburg Police Department, which is now looking into the allegation. Those are the appropriate responses. Police will seek to answer the many unanswered questions raised by the video, including whether the consensual relationship Reilly acknowledged was actually unlawful abuse and whether there are more victims, as the woman claimed. But the Rays do not have to wait for law enforcement. Their standards can and should be higher for the people they employ.
There’s a real measure of respect in how the Rays addressed this incident — respect for the community at large and their fans, who should not be kept in the dark when someone within Tampa Bay’s major league baseball organization is accused of a serious offense.