Blue Jays’ Kevin Pillar suspended two games for homophobic slur
‘I helped extend the use of a word that has no place in baseball . . . or anywhere in society.’
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Toronto Blue Jays centre fielder Kevin Pillar has been suspended by the team for two games after directing a homophobic slur toward Atlanta Braves reliever Jason Motte in a game Wednesday night.
Pillar, who issued an apology to the LGBTQ community on social media early Thursday afternoon, will sit out Thursday night against the Braves and Friday against the Baltimore Orioles.
The incident occurred during the seventh inning of Toronto’s 8-4 loss to Atlanta, the third meeting between the two teams in as many days.
Motte, the first pitcher to come out of the bullpen after starter Mike Foltynewicz’s six-inning outing, threw Pillar a quick pitch, striking him out and ending the inning with the Jays down by five runs. It is at this point that television replays showed a frustrated Pillar saying “faggot” to Motte.
In a note posted on Twitter, Pillar admitted using “inappropriate language.”
“By doing so I had just helped extend the use of a word that has no place in baseball, in sports or anywhere in society today,” he wrote. “I am completely and utterly embarrassed and feel horrible to have put the organization in this position.”
He continued: “I have apologized personally to Jason Motte, but also need to apologize to the Braves organization and their fans, and most importantly, to the LGBTQ community for the lack of respect I displayed last night. This is not who I am and will use this as an opportunity to better myself.”
In a club statement released shortly after Pillar’s apology, the Jays said they were “extremely disappointed” by Pillar’s comments. It echoed the centre fielder’s statement by apologizing to the LGBTQ community, fans and Major Leage Baseball as a whole.
“In no way is this kind of behaviour accepted or tolerated, nor is it a reflection of the type of inclusive organization we would like to be.”
The statement went on to call Pillar a “respected, high-character individual” who the team hopes “will learn from this situation and continue to positively contribute and live up to our values on and off the field.”
A spokesperson for Major League Baseball confirmed via email on Thursday morning that it was looking into the allegations against Pillar.
Major League Baseball implemented a workplace code of conduct in July 2013, including a zero-tolerance policy for harassment or discrimination based on sexual orientation.
In MLB’s official rules, under a section pertaining to unsportsmanlike conduct, it states that no manager, player, substitute, coach, training or batboy shall at any time “Use language which will in any manner refer to or reflect upon opposing players, an umpire, or any spectator.”
Pillar initially apologized for the incident between himself and Motte immediately following Wednesday night’s game.
At the time, Pillar was not asked to specify what exactly it was that he said to Motte during the exchange, which caused the benches to clear, but the 28-year-old did take full blame for the altercation, apologizing and saying the quick pitch was a breaking point during a series that had been difficult for him personally and for the team as a whole.
“It was immature, it was stupid, it was uncalled for. It’s part of the game; I’m a competitive guy and heat of the moment,” said Pillar, who finished 0-for-4 on the night. “Obviously I’m going to do whatever I’ve got to do to reach out and apologize and let (Motte) know he didn’t do anything wrong, it was all me.”
Pillar then called the incident “something to learn from, something to move on from.” He went on to say it was “not a good look” for himself or his team.
“Don’t let it define me but really I think it was just frustration from coming off a really good homestand and really just not even being in any of these ball games, just coming out flat and not being able to build on what we were able to build on (against) Seattle,” he said. “That just all came out in that moment.”
This is not the first time the Blue Jays organization has dealt with homophobic slurs by one of its players.
In September 2012, shortstop Yunel Escobar was suspended three games after playing against the Boston Red Sox with the Spanish words “TU ERE MARICON” written on eye black stickers, a black patch baseball players wear under their eyes to reduce the sun’s glare.
The phrase, which went unnoticed until a photo was posted online by a Jays fan, is most commonly translated to “You are a faggot” in English. Other translations are less explicitly homophobic, but more of an emasculating insult.
Escobar’s suspension was criticized for being too short by some; it was less than half that served by Detroit Tigers outfielder Delmon Young, who earlier that year was benched by MLB after allegedly yelling anti-Semitic epithets outside his hotel room in New York, and only a quarter of the time served by Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell, who was suspended for two weeks by the league in 2011 after making homophobic and threatening gestures and remarks to fans in San Francisco.