Leadership

A Union Leader Takes His Medical Struggles Public

Despite fighting inoperable brain cancer, the executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association continues to work. Rather than keeping quiet about his medical issues, he discussed them openly with the press this week.

When Michael Weiner addressed the members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ahead of Tuesday’s All-Star Game, there was a heavy personal topic to discuss. He didn’t hide from it.

“Um, as I guess some of you know, I have brain cancer,” he said, according to Yahoo Sports, which covered the event.

It’s tough to see him like that but, at the same time, he’s happy. He doesn’t want the sympathy, and he still wants to work.

Weiner’s personal struggles are a topic that’s hard to avoid: Confined to a wheelchair and paralyzed on his right side, he has seen his condition deteriorate in recent months. With his doctor’s help, he’s trying experimental medications to fight a brain tumor that’s inoperable.

But health problems aside, when it comes to the Major League Baseball Players Association, he’s still the man in charge.

“He Doesn’t Want the Sympathy”

Weiner, shown above in an interview with Helatheo 360, isn’t just any players union executive. He’s the executive director who spent the last three and a half years leading the union as it dealt with tough issues such as performance-enhancing drugs and negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement with team owners.

The health crisis comes at a time when Weiner is embroiled in the league’s probe of the now-defunct Biogenesis medical facility in Florida. The investigation focuses on players who allegedly visited the facility to get performance-enhancing drugs. Weiner talked about the likely punishments for some players, who he suggested could receive harsher penalties than the 50- to 100-game suspensions currently handed out under the drug program.

“It would not be wrong to say we’ve been dealing with the commissioner’s office daily,” he said, according to USA Today. “When all the interviews are done, we will meet with the commissioner’s office and try to work this out. That’s going to include whether names are going to be announced.”

At the All-Star Game, several players talked to the media about their union’s director.  Speaking to the Associated Press, Detroit Tigers star outfielder Torii Hunter noted that, despite his current situation, Weiner appears content with his work.

“It’s tough to see him like that but, at the same time, he’s happy. He doesn’t want the sympathy, and he still wants to work,” Hunter told the wire service. “It’s amazing from spring training, he’s walking and talking and telling us everything, and now to see him in a wheelchair in three months is tough. It’s tough to look at.”

Next Steps

While Weiner remains at the helm, he will get some help. At the meeting, he told reporters that he would be getting a deputy and a likely successor.

“We have an emergency contingency plan that’s been in place for several months, and we are within a week or two of having a plan that will deal with a deputy executive director that will succeed and ultimately be voted on by the board in November,” he said, according to the Associated Press.

As for his own life, Weiner told the reporters that he was staying optimistic.

“What I look for every day is beauty, meaning and joy,” he said, according to the Yahoo report. “And if I can find beauty, meaning and joy, then that’s a good day.…

“I’ll live each day looking for those things,” Weiner said. “Because I don’t know how much time I’ll have.”

(iStockphoto/Thinkstock)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. MORE

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