Tigers outfielder Torii Hunter is a guy that has always seemed to enjoy playing the game. As we found out in Kevin Baxter’s Los Angeles Times report, that joy is contingent on their being no openly gay teammates in the clubhouse.
According to Baxter’s story, which sheds light on the issue of their being no openly gay athletes in the MLB, NBA, NFL or NHL, when he talked to Hunter about his feelings regarding the possibility of having an “out” teammate, he churned out the following statement:
“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.”
While Hunter’s astonishing selfishness and inability to look beyond a teammate’s sexual orientation should be a personal issue for him to deal with, the fact of the matter is that the issue becomes much larger when he says things publicly that could discourage his teammates from being who they are.
As Baxter points out in his article, about 4,000 athletes spent time on the rosters of the four major sports in 2012, so the chances are, in his 16 seasons in the Majors, Hunter has unknowingly spent time with a “closeted” gay or bisexual teammate.
It is easy to understand why those teammates did not come out publicly to their organization. It’s because of players like Hunter. Players like Hunter and Tampa Bay shortstop Yunel Escobar, who was suspended for three games while with Toronto last season for wearing eye black displaying a homophobic slur in Spanish, make it hard for players to come out because they fear being being treated differently.
Like a lot of homophobic people, Hunter blames his intolerance on his religion, which is even more shameful. Your religious choice does not come with a get-away-with-being-homophobic-free card.
While some MLB teams like the Dodgers, Giants, Phillies, Red Sox, Orioles, Mariners, Cubs and Rays have been busy progressing beyond discrimination by making videos for the “It Gets Better” campaign — a program that creates support for LGBT youth suffering from bullying — players like Hunter and Escobar are taking the sport backwards.
Even Rangers pitcher Derek Holland landed in hot water last season when a homophobic slur was sent out from his Twitter account in response to someone calling him a “pathetic excuse” for a pitcher. Holland denied that he sent out the tweet, claiming that he was on the mound or in the dugout at the time. He blamed the act on a hacker.
Last season the Rangers also created two public service announcement anti-bullying videos, and though it did not address LGBT students specifically, it was a genuine video from the club and is being shown in schools in the DFW area.
Like Hunter, Murphy is a well-known Christian in the sport, but Murphy focuses on stopping bullying, rather than becoming a bully himself.
Due to his statements, that’s exactly what Hunter has become. He has discouraged his teammates from being themselves by telling them that it would make him feel weird.
If Hunter wants to remain a fan favorite, he should think about how his actions affect other people, apologize and retract his statements.
Until he does, someone needs to ask him if his uniform is 100 percent cotton.