An obnoxious fan was verbally abusing Oakland A’s player Matt Joyce during 8-6 loss to the Los Angeles Angels, and he responded in kind, or perhaps worse than in-kind, since what the fan was saying has not been reported. In his angry exchange with the fan, however, Joyce used what is only described as an “anti-gay slur,” which I assume to be “fag” or faggot.” If it was “cocksucker,” which I don’t believe is an anti-gay slur as used by athletes and others, then the description is misleading.
I have no problem with the fact that Joyce was disciplined for this. He’s a professional, and major league players have to put up with fans, even those who behave despicably. (Harassing a player with abusive verbiage is unethical, and the fan should have been ejected.) However, the player’s offense was a single word, and the punishment was two games suspension, which in Joyce’s case is about a $60,000 fine. $60,000 for a single word hurled in the midst of an argument is cruel and unusual punishment. Worse, Major League Baseball required that Joyce now participate in an outreach program with PFLAG, a “family and ally organization” supporting the LGBTQ community. That’s indoctrination, and an abuse of authority. The issue is incivility, not insufficient sensitivity to a minority group.
Joyce grovelled and apologized all over the place on Twitter, as if he had condemned the entire LGBT community. He needed to apologize to the fan he used the word on. That’s all. As we discussed in the case of a previous ballplayer, Kevin Pillar, disciplined this year for using the same term during play, this appears to be virtue-signalling by MLB, and unfair. Would Joyce have been suspended for, say, calling the fan “fuckhead”? Would he have to go to Fuckhead Sensitivity Training?
Now 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.
Pillar, by the way, though he received the same punishment in terms of games, lost one-tenth of the salary that Joyce will for losing the same word. Is that fair?
I am also troubled by this: the exchange was reported, not by the fan involved (fans generally are greatly amused when player deign to address them directly, even in a derogatory fashion, especially the kind of jerks who think it’s fun to hurl abuse from the safety of the stands) but by Associated Press photographer Mark J. Terrill, who decided to play Lena Dunham.
He had access to Joyce. The kind, ethical, fair response by Tarrill would be to tell Joyce that he heard the exchange, and that in the interests of the team and the sport he should apologize to the fan involved, or at least resolve not to behave similarly. That would be how he would want to be treated; this is Golden Rule territory. Instead, he set out to public ally embarrass Joyce (I presume he was aware of the Pillar incident), permanently mar his reputation, and cost him a significant amount of money….for a word, uttered in anger. After all, political correctness and the LGTB Enforcement Squad must be feared and obeyed.
Next time, Matt, if you just can’t let it go, call the jerk a fuckhead.