Torii Hunter: Intolerance In America’s Game

I am required to put a photo in my articles. This guy is not worth acknowledgment. Photo: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
I am required to put a photo in my articles. This guy is not worth acknowledgment. Photo: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports /

This is not how I wanted to say goodbye to 2012, but I refuse to stand by and allow these types of comments to go unnoticed.

My apologies in advance, there will be no mention of Brewers in this article.

In a press conference yesterday, former Twin and Angel (current Tiger), Torii Hunter was asked about having a gay teammate, to which he said the following:

"“For me, as a Christian…I will be uncomfortable because in all my teachings and all my learning, biblically, it’s not right. It will be difficult and uncomfortable.”"

I did not weigh in earlier this year when Yunel Escobar put a gay slur on his eye black stickers, and I regretted it.  Luckily, Colin Bennett wrote an amazing piece which is still one of the best things ever written on this site.  Sadly, I will not be quite as eloquent as Colin because this touches on a more personal note for me.

For those of you who do not know, I have a degree in theatre performance.  I have spent most of my adult life with gay men and in many ways I am the man I am today because of the gay men in my life, which includes my only blood uncle.  I am damn proud of this fact.

The best man at my wedding, was a gay man.  Fact.

Do you mean to tell me that if Albert Pujols had shown up in Los Angeles last season and all of the Angels found out he was gay, Torii Hunter would have treated him differently?  Or that once they found out, the clubhouse would have been torn apart?  Doubtful.  He would have hit 35 HR’s and drove in 100+ RBI’s and the city would have been waiving those rainbow flags with pride.  Of course, he is not gay, but I am trying to paint a picture for you.

What goes on in someone’s personal life should have NO bearing on how they are treated in the work place.  Because at the end of the day, playing Major League Baseball is a job.  And if a gay man has played his way to the Major League’s, then he deserves to be there and deserves the same treatment as any, and every, other player.  Right?

This topic is taboo, and I get that.  But it does not mean that I have to sit back and let ignorance run rampant in a country whilst I am a tax paying resident.  Because the truth is, this isn’t about gay or straight, this is about basic civil rights.  The things that Jackie Robinson fought so hard for, the thing that women still have to fight for, and the thing we all ask for… is fair treatment.  And by his statement, Torii would be treating his teammates differently if he knew they were gay.  That makes him prejudice.

Look, I have played softball with gay men.  And the truth is, those boys can ball!!  By that logic, shouldn’t you want the best team on the field?  Regardless of age, race, sex, sexual orientation, or religion?

So if there is a gay player on the Tigers, but they win the World Series in 2013…then what Torii?  Are you still uncomfortable now that you have your ring?  When you look back on your World Series season will you tell your children, “Well it was a great team, except that gay guy who kept making me uncomfortable.”?  I sure hope not, but…based on your comments yesterday, I can only assume that conversation would be had.

If you want to rip me for this next comment that is fine, because at least it means you read this far, and the truth is…I do not think I am wrong:

Religion is not an excuse for intolerance.

Sorry, but it isn’t.  Bigotry and ignorance do not have degrees or levels of severity.  They are what they are, regardless of reason or explanation.

Homophobia is something that should no longer be tolerated, especially in professional sports.  In an age where athlete’s have never-ending opportunities to make their opinions public, they should be held accountable…not just by us, but my their employers as well (You hear that Bud?).

How about this: If you do not like gay men or women, then stay away from them and let them live their lives.  The odds are, they don’t want to know you either.  But using your leverage as a professional athlete to promote intolerance, is worse than taking steroids…or corking a bat…or gambling on games in my book.  Torii Hunter, should this find your eyes I want you to know that I have lost all respect for you.  My wife, who hates all sports…but somehow recognizes (ed) you as her favorite player (she is from Minnesota), told me yesterday that she will never be able to respect a baseball player again.  You ruined the game of baseball for her.

I wrote this article, not out of anger, but out of disbelief.  We are on the verge of 2013 and we still can not allow people to live their lives without persecution.  Torii Hunter’s comments are unacceptable to me and should be unacceptable in the eyes of society, but they aren’t.  That is why I wrote this article today.  To let the world know that I believe in equal rights, even if Torii Hunter does not.

In closing, I want to quote Colin’s article from a few months ago, which you should all go read right now (here is the link).:

"I was going to be careful about my word choice here, but doing so would be doing a disservice to the larger issue. I don’t care what your views on homosexuality are. I don’t care what religious or sociological background comes in to play here. I don’t care that “you can hear worse in schools” or “they say worse stuff in the locker room”. Why does that make it right? How is that even an argument? This is flat-out wrong."