Torii Hunter and The Bigoted Teammate Principle

No, this isn't Detrot Tigers outfielder Torii Hunter. This is gay-bashing "Teacher of the Year" Gerald Buell. Six of one, half-dozen of the other...

No, this isn’t Detrot Tigers outfielder Torii Hunter. This is gay-bashing “Teacher of the Year” Gerald Buell. Six of one, half-dozen of the other…

Over at the NBC Sports baseball blog Hardball Talk, the baseball  writer/lawyer Craig Calcaterra explained today why the quoted comments of Detroit Tigers outfielder Torii Hunter regarding gay professional athletes are not just wrong, but misconduct. My message to Craig: “Bingo.”

In its recent article about closeted gay athletes, the Los Angeles Times quoted Hunter explaining why he felt having a gay team mate would be divisive:

“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.”

Hunter’s derisive comments about possible gay team mates place him in the same workplace category as a team member as the irresponsible communications of Natalie Munroe, Jerry Buell, and Jeremy Hollinger, teachers all, assigned them: untrustworthy, and unfit for their jobs. These were all teachers who in various internet posts announced their contempt, disgust, or in Munroe’s case, hatred for their own students, placing them in professional jeopardy. Defenders of these unprofessional professionals, and they themselves, defended their words with appeals to the First Amendment, and then by insisting that as professionals, they could hold such opinions and still conduct themselves appropriately as teachers. Both arguments fail. As I wrote in the case of Buell, who a ‘Teacher of the Year,” posted an anti-gay marriage rant on his Facebook page saying that  gay marriage was “a cesspool,” and and made him want to “throw up,” and that homosexuality was a sin:

“I  do not believe that the government should or can tell employees what they may do or say in their personal lives, nor is it the government’s proper role to insist that certain opinions, political or social, must conform to some consensus or norm. It can and should insist, however, that what teachers do and say do not undermine their ability to teach all students, or the ability of all students to trust in their good will and unbiased regard…If Buell had written that most girls were dumb, that Hispanics made him angry, that blacks made him fear for his life or that over-weight kids made him sick, nobody would be claiming that he had a constitutional right to keep his teaching job. In addition to the burden his hateful opinions placed on students who might be gay, they also are a threat to encourage bigotry on the part of his non-gay students.

“Explain it to Mr. Buell this way, in terms of his favorite ethical virtue, respect:

‘Those students who still respect you are more likely to adopt your bigoted views. Those who don’t respect you because of those views cannot be effectively taught by you. And those who read your words to mean that their teacher has no respect for them, will either regard you as an adversary, or lose respect for themselves.”’

All of this applies to Hunter, not as a teacher, but as teammate and presumed team leader. As Calcaterra writes, employing the same analysis to a Major League Baseball player:

“Hunter is essentially telling past, present and/or future gay teammates — which there likely have been, are, or will be on teams for which Hunter plays — he has a problem with them despite them never actually butting heads with him on any matter. And he’s doing so in the press, not one-on-one…Even if you think homosexuality is an abomination (I don’t), and even if you think Hunter has the absolute right, as a citizen, to say what he wants about it (I do), the fact that he is calling out potential — and possibly actual — teammates in the press in a negative light is significant for baseball purposes. Teams expect players to put aside their differences and come together as a unit. When they are unable to do that, teams expect the matter to be handled in-house, among players, and not have the conflicts aired in the media. …Here, however, we have a player publicly telling teammates that he’s going to have a hard time with them and that, as a result, they are going to be less welcome in a Torii Hunter-led clubhouse than others. And if you’re the Detroit Tigers, this should bother you.”

Exactly. We all have biases, and it is the mark of fair, responsible and ethical adults to be able to recognize a bias and make sure that it doesn’t influence our judgment and actions in ways harmful to others. Stating a bias so that those one is biased against know about it, however, is conduct allowing the bias to do harm. Such a public statement, as in Hunter’s case, and Buell’s, suggests that the speaker doesn’t regard the bias as a bias at all, but a rational, justifiable conclusion. It serves notice to the targets of the bias that they cannot depend on fair, friendly and cooperative treatment. Just as a student should not be expected to learn at the knee of a teacher who has expressed disgust for him, a teammate should not have to trust in the support of an individual who has announced to the world that he is “uncomfortable” with him.

Call it the “Bigoted Teammate Principle.” If you have a bias against someone who has to trust you, then you have two ethical obligations:

  1. Make sure your bias doesn’t interfere with your fulfilling your duties to that person, and
  2.  Keep that bias to yourself.


Spark and Pointer: Craig Calcaterra

Facts: LA Times

Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work was used in any way without proper attribution, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at

7 thoughts on “Torii Hunter and The Bigoted Teammate Principle

  1. Are you just throwing out a red herring, or are you really straining with coherence? You sound like one of those political campaign moguls taking a comment and using it to expand it into something far beyond its intent. First of all, an outfielder cannot be placed in the same league as a teacher. Additionally, Hunter’s comments were about his feelings and they did not denigrate anyone specifically or generally as he was speaking of the possibility. He said HE would be uncomfortable. Where is the ethics failure in that? For me to say I would be uncomfortable amongst Islamic culture does not deride them especially if I tell you that it would due to my upbringing and resulting lack of exposure.
    And please explain, “Stating a bias so that those one is biased against know about it, however, is conduct allowing the bias to do harm” The bias itself has potential for harm, but it does not require that the exposure of that bias do harm. In fact, it would seem to have the opposite effect; ‘forewarned is forearmed;’ It at least allows the opportunity for those whom the biased is directed against to address it in a constructive manner. As nearly all bias of the type indicated by Hunter originates in the devaluing of persons into labels. Your ‘Bigoted Teammate Principle’ fails ethically because it perpetrates this devaluation and encourages deception among the parties involved. Jack take a nap, maybe you’ll feel better.

    • I did not say a baseball player is “like a teacher,’ except that like a teacher, those who depend on Hunter now have reason to distrust him. The teacher who said he hated gays didn’t know if any of his students were gay, just as Hunter doesn’t know if any team mates are gay. Odds are that one or more of them are. You seriously think its Ok to announce that people of a certain kind make you uncomfortable when you might be working with such a person, as long as you don’t have anyone particular in mind? Really? Seems pretty obviously a bad mistake to me.

      “I would be uncomfortable amongst Islamic culture does not deride them especially if I tell you that it would due to my upbringing and resulting lack of exposure.” Sure it would, if I was your boss and knew that people who reported to you were Islamic and now didn’t want to work under you since you announced that you held them in low regard. Or if you had to deal with Muslims in other organizations, and now I couldn’t use you to do that, since you broadcast to the world that they made you “uncomfortable.” You seriously can’t comprehend the problem with that? How about this similar situation, which I wrote about earlier, here. Her dismissal in the job was upheld, by the way, for the same reasons I cite in the current post.

      Your suggestion that every bias ought to be broadcast is just insane, and, of course, completely unrealistic. I can work well with people I don’t like, and do, but not if I announce to the press that I dislike them. Ridiculous.

      The snotty last comment is not appreciated, especially since your justification of it pathetically reasoned and based on a fantastic and warped view of human nature and leadership.

      • Your extended review of Hunter’s quote with the educators you’ve referenced gave the impression that you equated the effects and consequences of quotes as equally damaging. I challenge you on this; professional athletes are essentially entertainers, the effect of an educator’s prejudices upon his or her students is quite profound, especially in light of interpersonal dynamics involved. A player stating that he would feel uncomfortable with the knowledge that teammate(s) are gay, will impact on field performance only to the extent that the player is unable to reconcile and perform professionally. If it affects the team’s metrics then he would be traded. The article (as far as I saw) did not indicate that violence or other personal attacks would be the result of Hunter’s discomfort. To assume or presume so, is hardly justified.
        My point was that bias needs to be addressed, that does not require broadcasting, but in this case, I am hoping that will be the case As to your response to my counter illustration concerning Muslims, I admit, as a professional career move, it would be a huge mistake, but an ethical failure?. I am afraid I need more education on how that would be the case. If you would teach me on that, and I am being quite sincere here, please explain if it was my slamming of your rule, or my suggestion about your nap that bothered you more; I really am interested as how my reasoning was pathetic or what warp you are seeing in my view of human nature

        • It didn’t give me that impression. Obviously the seriousness of what the teachers did is worse—they are students; they are children; they can’t leave the classes on their own; their education is threatened. I said the principle was similar: expressing public contempt for a class of people whom you had an obligation to. There is nowhere where I said Hunter’s gaffe was as serious in consequences as the teachers. Not there.

          An ethical failure is a breach of obligation or duty. This qualifies.

  2. I will have to consider in Hunter’s case, how his comment breached his obligation or duty. Was his failure in the holding or the expression of his misgivings?

    • Oh, just the expression, Ray.

      We all are bigots and biased in one way or the other—the trick, as Clarence Darrow said in his great Sweet summation, is to get past and around those biases, and do what you know is right even when your biases are telling you something else. Willie Mays’ manager, Alvin Dark, was a deep South segregationist who many suspected, including me, of being a closet racist. But his team was substantially black, and he was scrupulously fair, earning everyone’s trust. If he had given an interview saying, yeah, I hate niggers, but my job is to work with ’em, and I do, though its hard,” would it be possible for him to keep the trust of his players like Mays, Cepeda, McCovey? No. And he would have had to be fired. The responsible thing was to keep his biases to himself. Full disclosure isn’t always the most ethical route—this is a good example.

      • In the military, prior to the repeal of DADT (don’t ask don’t tell), we knew which soldiers were homosexuals. We did not have a problem with this. We knew which soldiers had problems with homosexuality. We again, had no problem with this. Why? Because those same soldiers who had problems with homosexuality had NO problems with homosexuals because of being homosexuals. Why did they have no problem with the homosexuals because of homosexuality? Because their main concern with how their fellow soldiers (hetero and homo alike) were going to behave at the decisive point (ie when their lives were on the line). They knew instinctively that the best soldiers and good soldiers (hetero and homo alike) would perform their duty and keep their fellows alive.

        Had even the slightest inclination arisen that two soldiers despised each other for what they were, immediate action would be taken to counsel said soldiers. Why? Because when the decisive point confronts them, they’d better not have a moment’s hesitation while considering whether or not the GREATER PURPOSE (mission and care for each other) is less important than their personal biases.

        Applied to the posted scenario, the GREATER PURPOSE is playing the best game of baseball for the fans possible. This cannot occur if a moment of hesitation occurs because of someone’s bias.

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