Monday, December 31, 2012

Torii Hunter's Sad, Bigoted View

The Detroit Tigers' new right fielder recently told Kevin Baxter of the Los Angeles Times (for an article published Sunday) that an openly gay teammate would be divisive in the locker room. "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." I do not doubt that when (not if, because the day will come, sooner or later), for the first time, an active professional athlete in America comes out publicly, it will be divisive, but Hunter (and others who would side with him) should be taken to task for being on the wrong side of that divide.

Is Hunter entitled to his opinion? Yes, he is. Are all opinions created equal? No, they are not. The particular opinion he is espousing, entitled to it as he is, is morally repugnant and a mark against his character.

I find Hunter's use the Bible as a shield for his bigotry distasteful as well. Hunter plays on the sabbath, keeps a neatly trimmed beard, and wears clothing made from mixed fabrics. He has also fathered multiple children out of wedlock. All of those put him in contradiction with various passages from the bible. If having a gay teammate would make Hunter uncomfortable, does he feel equally uneasy around his tattooed teammates, or those who've eaten shellfish? Those men have broken the Bible's code as well. If you would laugh off talk of mixed fabrics and facial hair as lesser issues, The Bible also teaches that slavery is okay. Yet all truly righteous people know it to be and acknowledge it as an abomination against human decency.

If (like 99% of Christians) you pick and choose which of the Bible's myriad (and oftentimes contradictory) teachings to follow, you're acknowledging that in the hundreds and hundreds of years since it was written, the world has changed, and you're enlightened enough to make a few distinctions and acknowledge that the book doesn't have everything just right. Once you've taken that step, to use the Bible as your sole support for any stance is merely a shallow exercise in self-service. It seems to me that the book's more powerful message, the one given far more attention in the text, is to love your fellow human being, and be good to them.

Hunter has a reputation for being a locker room leader, well liked by his teammates*. I am certain there are, among those teammates, many who share Hunter's view on homosexuality. I am also sure there are others who do not agree with him. I hope those men will step forward and speak out in support of any teammates, past, present, or future, who might feel unwelcome in the wake of Hunter's comments.

* It is somewhat surprising that Hunter may be so popular, given that he has sparked controversy with comments about teammates before. In a 2010 USA Today interview he referred to dark-skinned Latino baseball players as "impostors" while discussing the changing demographics in baseball. "People see dark faces out there, and the perception is that they're African-American. They're not us. They're impostors."

A similar situation arose in the NFL, when former Minnesota Viking Matt Birkwrote wrote an op-ed attacking gay marriage. In that instance, Vikings' punter Chris Kluwe responded with his own op-ed published by the Twin Cities Pioneer Press, in which he respectfully disagreed with his former teammate. Earlier this year, Baltimore Raven Brendon Ayanbadejo voiced his support for gay marriage, only to have a Maryland state delegate write a letter to Ravens' ownership, asking that they "order" their players to remain silent. Ayanbadejo did not, and Kluwe again stepped forward, this time penning a letter to the critical politician.

Evil triumphs when good men do nothing. Hunter's teammates, especially star players like Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, and Justin Verlander, have the largest platform from which to take a stand against hate. Tigers manager Jim Leyland and owner Mike Ilitch and star players on other teams too, I would hope that when they're inevitably asked about Hunter's comments, they speak out in support of the LGBT community and human rights for all humans.

These rights are coming, but just as they did for African-Americans and for women, they are coming too slowly. The more voices that speak out for what is right, the more swiftly what is right will be done.

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