In 2017, former Patriots and Chiefs tackle Ryan O’Callaghan admitted he planned on committing suicide while still living in the closet throughout his football career. He further explained that locker room talk and the idea that football players are seen a certain way fueled his desire to hide being gay.
Sports have always produced a negative stigma around being gay or members of the LGBTQ+ community, yet Thom Brennaman using an anti-gay slur is just the tip of the iceberg that represents homophobic behavior in the Major League Baseball.
In 2011, Atlanta Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell asked a group of male San Francisco Giants’ fans, "Are you a homo couple or a threesome?" alluding to the large LGBTQ+ population in the area.
In 2017, Kevin Pillar, an outfielder for the Blue Jays, was caught using a homophobic slur during a game.
In 2018, Josh Hader, Sean Newcomb and Trea Turner all had old tweets resurface with multiple anti-gay slurs in them.
Just last year, George Springer of the Astros was suspended for using an anti-gay slur toward the umpire.
So when the Cincinnati Reds sports announcer was caught on a hot mic using the word “fag,” it was not much of a surprise. He later apologized while the game was still being played, saying he made a mistake. However, this was not a mistake. A mistake is announcing the wrong batter or saying the wrong score. Using a homophobic slur is not a mistake. It was an intentional word choice; the mistake was being caught using the word.
When a word is used that has been rooted in hate for so long, it creates an unwelcoming and unsafe environment for individuals of the LGBTQ+ community in baseball. Sports have created a safe space for homophobic individuals with little to no consequences which in turn doesn’t allow for any players to be openly out.
The MLB needs to do better with consequences as well as creating a more accepting and inviting environment. Apologizing is the bare minimum that should be expected. There needs to be action, not just words. His words can cause more pain than he could ever imagine.
The word “faggot” used to refer to a bundle of twigs that would be used as kindling. It then became associated with the burning alive of individuals. The phrase simplified to “fry a faggot.” There are numerous hate crime reports where the word “faggot” has been used against gay individuals. It is a word rooted in hate and rejection of those who are gay.
LGBT individuals face hard lives if they decide to come out. Rejection. Homelessness. Suicide. Research done by the Trevor Project reports that, “As a result of family rejection, discrimination, criminalization and a host of other factors, LGBTQ youth represent as much as 40% of the homeless youth population. Of that population, studies indicate that as many as 60% are likely to attempt suicide.”
These are not facts. These are actual people who face these issues every single day. And once you come out, it is not just rainbows and unicorns. From then, individuals will face discrimination in the work place, will face the fear of holding their significant other’s hand down the street, internalized homophobia and so much more.
Using an anti-gay slur is not bad for your reputation. It is bad for all children growing up thinking there is something wrong with them, for people who fear for their lives when coming out, for the kids who end up homeless, depressed, suicidal and even dead. It is not just a word. It is a card played against a whole population of people who just want to be loved and accepted for who they are.
Thom, you can say you are sorry, that you made a mistake, but until you take action, that apology is just another nail in the coffin against LGBTQ+ individuals, especially associated with the MLB.
Sports have created a toxic environment filled with hatred, and until something is done, the cycle will continue, and what Thom said will continue to exist and live in sports. MLB: do something. MLB players: be better.
Kelsey Boeing is a senior studying photojournalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Do you agree? Let Kelsey know by emailing her at email@example.com.