No Major League Baseball players used anti-gay slurs or were involved in any recorded, on-field anti-gay controversies for the first time since the 2016 season, according to the LGBTQ sports website OutSports.
Normally, the regular baseball season features 162 games. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 season was shortened to only 60 games before teams headed into the playoffs.
Yet despite the shortened season, the fact that no on-field controversies emerged in a sport where players occasionally become mired in controversies for using anti-LGBTQ rhetoric was notable.
In 2018, Atlanta Braves pitcher Sean Newcomb, Washington National shortstop Trea Turner, and Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Josh Hader came under scrutiny for past tweets using homophobic or racial slurs, with Hader’s tweets dredged up while was playing in the MLB All-Star Game.
Last year, George Springer, an outfielder for the Houston Astros, was suspended for lobbing an anti-gay slur at an umpire for what he thought was a bad call.
OutSports notes that the only incident involving anti-gay slurs this season came from Cincinnati Reds announcer Thom Brennaman, who was suspended, and ultimately resigned, after being caught on a “hot mic” making an anti-gay slur.
Seemingly unaware that Fox Sports Ohio had returned to the live broadcast from a commercial break, Brennaman could be heard saying that an unknown location was “one of the fag capitals of the world.”
Not only was Brennaman’s comment condemned by the Cincinnati Reds organization, but relief pitchers Matt Bowen and Amir Garrett took to Twitter to denounce the remarks and expressed solidarity with the LGBTQ community, while first baseman Joey Votto expressed sympathy for those LGBTQ people who were subjected to the slur when they simply wanted to watch a baseball game.
Washington Nationals pitcher Sean Doolittle, a longtime advocate for LGBTQ issues, told OutSports the reactions to Brennaman showed that attitudes in the sport are changing — perhaps a testament to efforts that MLB has attempted to take to combat homophobia in recent years, including naming former outfield Billy Bean as an “ambassador of inclusion.”
Doolittle recounted an incident in Philadelphia last year, when a fan called him a “fag” while he was warming up in the bullpen. Doolittle’s teammates confronted the fan, called security, and had the fan ejected from the stadium.
“They knew, even as far as a fan heckling, there is no room for that in our game at the ballpark,” Doolittle said. “I thought that was awesome.”
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