Article Written by Adam Corsair (@ACorsair21)
There's an ugly side of baseball that, from time to time, likes to pop its head up from under the earth which we uncomfortably turn a blind eye towards. Often times, if a player on our favorite team does something that we would otherwise find reprehensible and disgusting, we try to find ways to shove it under the rug.
"Oh, he's just passionate."
"Oh, he has a hot head."
"This doesn't represent the type of person he is. It was just the heat of the moment."
"It wasn't meant to be offensive. It's locker-room talk."
"Boys will be boys"
The problem here is we try to find excuses for these individuals, granting them free passes because they are wearing the laundry we rally behind. Granted, this attitude isn't absolute, as Toronto fans roasted former Blue Jay, Yunel Escobar, for etching homophobic slurs under his eye back in 2012. An act that we found unacceptable then should be no different today. Fans of the Blue Jays didn't reach back and defend Escobar because he was wearing their favorite team's jersey. In fact, he was called out for it and pretty much run out of the city. Blue Jays fans remained objective in their analysis of Escobar's choice to do something beyond offensive; specifically in a city that celebrates and embraces its multicultural demographic. For that, Toronto was applauded, at least by me.
Which brings me to Kevin Pillar.
Look, I don't know Pillar as an individual, and what I do "know" about him is solely based on what is sold to me by the Blue Jays and their affiliates; which adds up to little, if anything. I don't know his position regarding political and sociological issues, which is pretty much the norm when it comes to the vast majority of athletes in the grand scheme of things. For the most part, he seemed like an alright guy, I guess.
However, that doesn't excuse what he said and did last night after being quick-pitched in Atlanta. Like a child, Pillar responded to a perfectly legal baseball move by throwing a tantrum and yelling out a homophobic slur towards relief pitcher Jason Motte. You can say all you want that tensions were high (which, I dunno, were they?), he was frustrated with the situation, blah blah blah. The bottom line is simple: there is no excuse for this type of behavior.
I'm sort of at a loss for words because, in my naivety regarding professional athletes, I was under the impression that we live in a time where we were beyond things of this nature. Moreover, I'm embarrassed that a member of the team that I stand behind made the choice to utter such a word over something so meaningless that his reaction to it immediately falls under the characterization of pathetic and deplorable. What makes it worse is that Pillar pretty much admitted to what we already knew he said, calling it "immature" and something that he hopes "doesn't define him." Granted, it was right after the game, and I think it's fair to criticize the immediate response Pillar gave, as it's not something that he should expect people to just "move on" from. However, he has further commented on it, which is what I'd like to focus on.
Unlike Escobar, Pillar has since taken a step forward by taking accountability for his actions and apologizing to those who he offended. His statement, which he tweeted, is as follows -
Further, the Blue Jays have seemed to take responsibility by issuing a statement via Twitter -
and suspending Pillar for two games -
I don't want to minimize how inexcusable Pillar's actions were, but I think this is a step in the right direction - but that's not really for me to say and evaluate. Also, I think a two game suspension, plus donating Pillar's forfeited salary is also a positive that has been produced out of this incredible negative. But again, how I feel about this isn't really worth anything.
Honestly, this is a difficult piece for me to cover because the issue is understandably sensitive and I don't want to act like "Welp! He apologized, got suspended, and donated some money! Let's move on from this! Nothing to see!" because that's not my attitude. What Pillar said wasn't something that ought to be brushed off. If his gut-reaction was to insult a pitcher by calling him a homophobic slur, then he has some serious soul searching and character reconstruction to undergo. I also want to acknowledge that had this been any player on any other team, and the same consequences and apology were issued, I'd still acknowledge it as a positive step forward, but there is still a whole lot of making up to do.
Again, I don't defend what Pillar said, and I never will. But for the Jays and Pillar to take accountability for what transpired and issue statements and punishment for it, is something. It's not the whole thing or everything - not even close. But it's something. That doesn't pardon him. That doesn't make what he said something that we can reach back and find one of the aforementioned excuses in the beginning of this piece. We shouldn't. We should understand why it's not OK for him to use such a word and why a punishment is necessary. Coming to a better understanding of such things leads to a more progressive community; something that we should embrace.
Thus, if you're of the camp that has the "I mean, it's just a word..." attitude, then I think it's fair to say that it's not just Pillar that has some soul searching to do. But if you're of the camp that responds to his apology by saying his actions will speak louder than his words, then I think that's fair. I hope, for his sake, that he's able to show his growth rather than just verbalize it.
As uncomfortable as this may be, it ought to be addressed. It's part of growth, and maybe that's part of the process, right? It does no good to hide from these things because by doing so you thereby fail to come to a robust understanding as to exactly why moments like these are reprehensible. Pillar's intent isn't what should be the focus here. You can say all you want that, even though he used a homophobic slur, it doesn't mean he hates members of the LBGT community. Even though that may be true (and I'd be willing to bet that it is), adopting that sort of reasoning completely misses the point as to why Pillar's action was wrong. Again, if this is your position, then it's not just Pillar that needs to have some introspection.
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