In the seventh inning of the Atlanta Braves’ 8-4 win over the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday, Braves reliever Jason Motte “quick pitched” Jays outfielder Kevin Pillar, striking him out. Quick-pitching isn’t illegal except in extremes, in which case it is called a balk. It is, however, considered a bush-league tactic. Tempers were flaring in this game already, and Pillar was so upset by the pitch that yelled “Faggot!” at Motte. A “benches-clearing incident” ensued, called such because baseball players seldom really fight.
Nobody in the stands heard what Pillar said, and most of the players didn’t either. It was later lip-read off of the videotape of the game. There is no evidence that Motte is gay, so this was just a spontaneous utterance intended to mean “I don’t like you,” or something. If Motte were gay, and Pillar called him a faggot, this would be personal denigration based on a characteristic.
I mention this because calling a woman a bitch is not sexual harassment in the workplace; it’s just uncivil. Calling a man a bitch, however, has been found to be sexual harassment, as an innuendo about sexuality rather than character. It seem pretty clear that Pillar was not making a sexual allegation.
After the game, sensing what was to come, Pillar issued an apology to Motte, saying, “It was immature, it was stupid, it was uncalled for. It’s part of the game.” Is there any doubt that athletes saying vulgar things to each other (and umpires) on the field is part of the game? I have seen players, managers and coaches clearly say “fuck,” “shit,” and “son of a bitch” for decades, too many times to count. One of my all-time favorite players, hippie former Boston lefty Bill Lee, was once caught by a face-on camera as he sparked a real baseball fight by pointing at the Yankees’ Greg Nettles and articulating, “HEY FUCKHEAD!” Lee wasn’t suspended or fined, and this was thirty years ago.
But Major League Baseball launched an investigation of Pillar. Of words. On a baseball field. Pillar issued a more complete apology on his Twitter account:
He apparently guessed what was coming, or had been tipped off. Yesterday, the Toronto Blue Jays suspended Pillar for two games. Pillar isn’t yet in the highly-paid star category: he makes “only” $521, 000. A two game suspension will cost him about $6433 for a one syllable expletive. MLB has not taken any action, and apparently won’t.
Now, the Blue Jays, like any employer, can make any rules it chooses regarding the workplace. Obviously slurs cause bad feelings and are not the kind of things a professional sport wants its young fans to associate with its heroes. Still, any time people get punished for mere words my ethics alarms go off, and they also go off when so many people don’t seem to have ethics alarms regarding chilling speech and expression. Therefore I have some questions:
1. Pillar apologized almost immediately. Why wasn’t this enough?
2. Is this a Canadian thing? The Blue Jays put out such a quivering virtue-signalling political correctness-pandering statement that my nose hairs hurt:
3. What values? The values that say that people who use language that interest groups want banned should be slapped down so they think 12 times before they speak, even during sports contests? If the Blue Jays are so inclusive, where are all those openly gay players? Where are the female players? Does anybody think that Pillar was really expressing his determination not to be respectful to a gay shortstop, rather than just expressing his annoyance over being quick-pitched?
If the Jays know Kevin to be a high character individual, why take 6,000 away from him for something said in the heat of the moment? He’s one of the very best centerfielders in baseball, and the Jays are off to a terrible start that threatens to knock them out any chance for a championship. It looks as if the Jays are willing to hurt a player who is a good guy and hurt its own team to play tribute to the LGBT lobby demanding a pound of flesh, when a simple apology from the player should have been sufficient.
4. So what other words are banned in baseball? “Fuck” and “shit” are apparently just fine. What if a player calls a another player a “cunt”? That is pretty similar to calling a non-gay player a “faggot.” $6000? $10,000? Will a black player get fined for smilingly calling a black teammate a “nigga” after a great catch? Is it the context and tone that matter, not the actual word?Does this mean if Pillar didn’t say “faggot” but flipped a limp wrist and said, lisping, “Ooooo, nice move, Nancy!” he would have still been suspended, while “HEY FUCKHEAD!!!” is just boys being boys?
5. How about if a player doesn’t know a Hispanic player’s name and shouts, “Hey Pedro!” A slur? What if it’s a pitcher he calls “Pedro”? It could be a compliment: Pedro Martinez is considered one of the greatest hurlers ever. If a black player calls out “Hey, Whitey!” to a white pitcher, is that a per se six grand fine? How do we know the player wasn’t also giving a compliment to a left-hander who pitches like Hall of Famer Whitey Ford?
6. Is this like sexual harassment, where the same conduct is only illegal if it is unwelcome? If Motte had laughed Pillar’s comment off and there was no “bench-clearing,” would Pillar be 6,000 bucks lighter today? Does it matter if the targeted player cries? No, that can’t be it—there’s no crying in baseball…
7. Or is this a “no tolerance” message from the Jays? Wait, now: the Tampa Bay Rays have a large, corpulent pitcher called “Jumbo Diaz.” Are fat slurs also banned? Why not? Who is the Almighty Word Arbiter of Baseball, and what are his standards? More to the point, which lobby is he trying to suck up to?
8. And speaking of sucking, I assumed that the word that got Pillar banned was “cocksucker,” which I never thought of as an anti-gay slur until Alec Baldwin, that progressive role model and hero, called a gay photographer the name and subsequently had to fight off the furies of hell…but since his party affiliation is in the right place, he was quickly forgiven. Now I’m wondering if that word would have gotten Pillar suspended. After all, Stephen Colbert called the President of the United Sates a “cockholster,” didn’t apologize, and CBS did nothing to him whatsoever.
If Pillar had explained that “faggot” was a joke (it was just as funny as “cockholster,” you must admit—not funny at all), would that have been enough to exonerate him?
9. Wait! It all makes sense now! Kevin Pillar must be a Republican!
Pointer: Other Bill