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Why Torii Hunter’s comments about having a gay teammate matter

Dec 31, 2012, 9:00 AM EDT

Torii Hunter AP AP

As we noted yesterday, Torii Hunter was quoted in the Los Angeles Times saying that having a gay teammate would be “difficult and uncomfortable” for him because such a person is anathema to his religion.

A fairly popular response to these comments is, basically, “hey, it’s just his opinion, man.” Hunter is merely speaking his mind (as we sportswriters all wish more athletes would), and how dare we jump on a guy for merely saying how he feels? A more specific version of that response is to say that Hunter is entitled to his own religious/political/social convictions, and that we shouldn’t criticize a guy for them, even if we personally disagree.

Baloney. Hunter’s views on homosexuality and his right to speak his mind are a red herring. Totally beside the point. Indeed, one can agree 100% with Hunter’s religious views and/or his take on gay people and still find his comments here out of line. Not because of political, religious or social reasons, but purely for baseball reasons. His comments suggest he’s a bad teammate.

Hunter is essentially telling past, present and/or future gay teammates — which there likely have been, are, or will be on teams for which Hunter plays — he has a problem with them despite them never actually butting heads with him on any matter. And he’s doing so in the press, not one-on-one. Try to think of any other situation in which that would be considered acceptable from a clubhouse/professionalism standpoint:

  • “For me, as a Mike Scioscia guy … I will be uncomfortable playing with someone who manages differently than Mike Scioscia because it’s not right. It will be difficult and uncomfortable.”
  • “For me, as a guy who thinks pitchers should bean guys after home runs … I will be uncomfortable playing with someone who doesn’t bean a guy after he hits a home run because it’s not right. It will be difficult and uncomfortable.”
  • “For me, as a guy who thinks it’s OK to steal signs … I will be uncomfortable playing with someone who doesn’t steal signs because it’s not right. It will be difficult and uncomfortable.”
  • “For me, as a hitter who uses all fields … I will be uncomfortable playing with someone who always tries to pull the ball because it’s not right. It will be difficult and uncomfortable.”
  • “For me, as guy who always gives interviews … I will be uncomfortable playing with someone who doesn’t talk to the media, because it’s not right. It will be difficult and uncomfortable.”
  • “For me, as an Arkansan … I will be uncomfortable playing with someone from Texas because it’s not right. It will be difficult and uncomfortable.”
  • “For me, as a pop music fan … I will be uncomfortable playing with someone who listens to country music in the clubhouse because it’s not right. It will be difficult and uncomfortable.”

If any player said stuff like that to the press, people would be all over him. Not because of the substance of the opinion — what kind of music Hunter listens too is between him and his ears — but because he is unnecessarily alienating teammates. He, as a well-respected veteran, is signaling that some stuff will fly with him and some stuff won’t, and preemptively saying that teammates who don’t adhere to his view of the world are going to have a much harder time with him. We would never find that acceptable.

And so it goes for these comments too. Even if you think homosexuality is an abomination (I don’t), and even if you think Hunter has the absolute right, as a citizen, to say what he wants about it (I do), the fact that he is calling out potential — and possibly actual — teammates in the press in a negative light is significant for baseball purposes. Teams expect players to put aside their differences and come together as a unit. When they are unable to do that, teams expect the matter to be handled in-house, among players, and not have the conflicts aired in the media.

Here, however, we have a player publicly telling teammates that he’s going to have a hard time with them and that, as a result, they are going to be less welcome in a Torii Hunter-led clubhouse than others. And if you’re the Detroit Tigers, this should bother you.

201 Comments (Feed for Comments)
  1. greej1938l - Dec 31, 2012 at 12:16 PM

    again Craig…..this is just ur opinion….i dont think it matters at all

  2. jackwhite11 - Dec 31, 2012 at 12:16 PM

    First of all, I’m pretty sure the LA Times writer picked out Hunter specifically to question about playing with openly gay teammates because it’s well-known he’s an evangelical Christian and would likely answer the question in the way he did. The resulting ‘controversy’ was invited and welcome.

    Second, Hunter isn’t out proselytizing against homosexuality and didn’t volunteer his views, and if the quote used is the totality of Hunter’s answer to the question he was asked, I don’t see any meanness of spirit or anything other than honesty in his answer. He doesn’t say he’d refuse to play with an openly gay teammate or he thinks they’re damned to eternal perdition or that he’d treat them badly. He chose to answer the question he was asked honestly by saying it’d be “difficult and uncomfortable” for him. I’m sure it would and I’m pretty sure a fair number of other players, if being honest, would say that, too.

    Look, most of us (I think) agree that Hunter’s religious views on homosexuality are incorrect. But we come by our views and opinions because of many factors in our lives, not necessarily through meanness, bigotry or hate. But clearly his discomfort is HIS problem, not baseball’s, and it’ll be up to him to get past it. Perhaps rather than being open and honest, he would have been better advised to answer simply “Sorry, I’m not going to comment on that”.

    • cur68 - Dec 31, 2012 at 12:46 PM

      Yup, perhaps he should have ducked the question. But he didn’t. And, in the process of displaying all the tact of a bull in a china shop, he’s invited the mayhem that has come his way. What year did he think this was, anyhow? Then he cloaked his bigotry in “religious beliefs”? Well, he’s either without an ounce of understanding for his own religion or he posses a level of self deception that is breathtaking (perhaps both). If he’d said the exact same words about Asian people or short people or women it would invite the same amount ridicule he’s getting. But, because the group he feels uncomfortable around are “The Gays” he thinks its cool to air that in public, eh?

      If being around an openly gay teammate bothers you, dude keep it out of the press. It’s exactly the same as being bothered by us black folk. I might get some of blackness on ya, Torii! Its not the right KIND of blackness, ok, so you wouldn’t like it.

    • SOBEIT - Dec 31, 2012 at 1:04 PM

      Discussion is a start towards a solution, not silence. Divine intervention rarely works. The path to enlightenment often starts with a simple discussion of ideas, beliefs and facts. We can agree to disagree, but I will never agree to not discuss.

      And he was not asked the question as a gotcha question or as a setup. And public figures know full well that if you step through the door, in this 24/7 real time media, be ready for the feedback, be it positive or negative. They learn this not so much in a PC context but as a way to protect their public image for sports advertising and marketing dollars. Their name is their brand. Tori is a big boy and can take care of himself. He will deal with this as he sees fit. And we will most likely discuss and comment because we have platforms like this to express ourselves just like he has Twitter and the general media to express his views…whether the question was asked of him or if he offered it voluntarily and independently.

    • lyacko - Jan 1, 2013 at 8:57 PM

      what do you mean his views-he has every right to feel-THE WAY HE WANTS TO-if thats how he feels-and he has the balls to say it-the la times is going to tell him how to feel-or are you going to tell him how to feel-last i herd we still live in america-not sure for how much longer-i never cared for him as a player-but as a man i like him

  3. Minoring In Baseball - Dec 31, 2012 at 12:28 PM

    Again, things blown way out of proportion. He stated on Twitter how mis-quoted he was, but that could just be him back tracking. Anyway, it’s the off-season and this is considered ‘news’..

    • indaburg - Dec 31, 2012 at 1:32 PM

      This is news during the baseball season too.

  4. senatorsguy - Dec 31, 2012 at 1:43 PM

    •“For me, as a pop music fan … I will be uncomfortable playing with someone who listens to country music in the clubhouse because it’s not right. It will be difficult and uncomfortable.”

    But… I think this one is right…..

  5. thatyankeedude - Dec 31, 2012 at 2:19 PM

    This is insane. If Torri Hunter is being all but persecuted for this comment I don’t wanna live in the US anymore. Libs thank for for taking a giant crap on the greatest country in the world. By promoting your anti Christian agendas and communistic ways this country has become a joke. Can’t wait for judgement day:)

    • seattlej - Dec 31, 2012 at 3:51 PM

      Hasn’t “judgment day” happened three or four times now in the past two years?

    • ultimatecardinalwarrior - Dec 31, 2012 at 4:48 PM

      Speaking of jokes…

    • jwbiii - Dec 31, 2012 at 7:58 PM

      Can I hold the door for you?

    • nightman13 - Jan 1, 2013 at 11:03 PM

      I’m going to assume your derogatory comments about liberals mean you are a conservative. I will also assume that because you link liberal views and communism together, you are not smart.

      Here’s why open minded educated people are anti-Christian. A portion of the “Christian” population is distorting the actual messages of the Bible as a justification of racist and bigoted behaviors. Hiding behind religious freedom to conduct the same types of beliefs usually reserved for clan members.

      Jesus preached to forgive the people that murdered him, but to hate homosexuals? A lot of NRA members are conservative and religious and in the Bible God said to treat all his creations with respect. So they obey that by hunting some of them for sport?

      That’s why people are anti religion, several groups are just using religious freedom as a cover for bigoted behaviors and only believe the parts of the Bible that justify their beliefs while turning a blind eye to anything that contradicts their beliefs.

    • Kleinz 57 - Jan 3, 2013 at 3:20 PM

      Oh I used to LOVE WWF Judgment Day.

      The one in 2000 where the Undertaker came back and chokeslammed the entire McMahon-Helmsley faction? Classic.

  6. randygnyc - Dec 31, 2012 at 2:46 PM

    Why is anyone’s sexual preference at the place of employment even being discussed? No one should have to be exposed to that while at work. And some here are commenting here that not only can’t tori answer a question with his opinion, he must have to go under some “transformation”. Tolerance works both ways. Personally, I don’t care about who you sleep with or who you love. Perhaps we can talk about it over a beer. But you’ll be sorry if I have to hear about it in the office (that goes for anyone, homosexuals, or heteros alike)

    • nothanksimdriving123 - Dec 31, 2012 at 4:20 PM

      randy, I’ll try to explain this. You said: “No one should have to be exposed to that while at work.” Reality check: At most people’s jobs, we might see a photo of a co-worker’s loving family at their desk/cubicle/locker. They might get a phone call/message from their spouse. A spouse/partner might drop by for some legitimate reason and we see an appropriately quick kiss. We do not consider this to be blatant, sexual behavior. Unless it’s two gays. Then, OMG, it’s “in your face” “flaunting your (so-called) lifestyle” etc etc etc. You say you “don’t care” who someone loves, but we’ll “be sorry” if you hear any hint of our home lives at your office. Please, I beg you, if you have any guns, leave them at home. And forgive me if I’m a little wary of going for a beer with you.

  7. sfm073 - Dec 31, 2012 at 2:49 PM

    Despite his bad logic and they way it may make past, current and future teammates feel, he’s still allowed to express his views and opinions. You don’t have to like it (and I don’t) buts its his right to do so. When he says he doesn’t think gay people should be allowed to play then you should be writing these articles.

  8. bigtrav425 - Dec 31, 2012 at 3:05 PM

    He is allowed to have his own beliefs! Right,wrong or indifferent……but he is right we all know most guys feel like him,again whether its right wrong or indifferent.I was going to give him kudos but now he is backtracking like a pussy because of the over sensitive pussies in this country began to whine and complain…….Waaaaaaaaa he doesn’t want a gay teammate..Waaaaaa

  9. dparker713 - Dec 31, 2012 at 3:39 PM

    Craig, you’re being entirely hypocritical here. How many times have you railed against a front office for making a move for a clubhouse guy? How many articles have you bashed Jeff Francouer as a great guy but a terrible player?

    Whether or not Hunter’s actions harm a clubhouse atmosphere, you’ve never shown a care in the world about clubhouse atmosphere. We all know that if the Tigers win this year, they’ll have great team chemistry, regardless of the views of Torii Hunter on any subject under the sun. Nor does his making his views public have any weight, otherwise Ozzie Guillen would’ve lasted 5 minutes.

    Hunter’s views just don’t matter in regards to his play, his value to the Tigers, the Tigers as a team, or baseball in general. They may matter to society since he is a minor public figure, but this has about as much effect on the upcoming season as the weekly Biden gaffe did on the 2012 Presidential election.

  10. dbldmr - Dec 31, 2012 at 4:31 PM

    Why does anyone care what Torii Hunter thinks?

  11. beelza - Dec 31, 2012 at 4:36 PM

    The article from the LA Times writer is nothing more than a hit piece, from a piece-of-shit writer, from a piece-of-shit publication. As a Tigers fan, welcome to Detroit Torii, very happy to have ya.

  12. louhudson23 - Jan 1, 2013 at 6:18 AM

    There is no playing of the “Christian” card unless Hunter and his “Christian” apologists go on to explain what means they use to pick and choose their “sins” they wish to oppose….so touching pigskin is ignored? how and why? Working on Sunday is ignored? how and why? divorce ignored? how and why? mixing fabrics ignored?how and why? disrespectful wife is ignored? how and why? tattoos ignored?how and why? trimming one’s beard ignored? how and why? and on and on….
    These are of course,rhetorical questions,as there is no viable answer. Bigotry is bigotry and attempting to hide behind admonitions written in earlier times of ignorance which clearly hold no place in the modern world.

  13. Kevin Gillman - Jan 1, 2013 at 2:09 PM

    Craig, are you literally taking Hunter word for word for what he is saying? Nowhere in that interview did he say he would alienate those teammates that are homosexual. Nowhere did he say he would refuse to play alongside those teammates. He DID say he was uncomfortable with their lifestyle, and again that’s his choice. But it doesn’t mean he will suddenly be a jerk to those players, and ignore them.

    And if you think like that, you’re wrong.

    If Hunter homophobic? Perhaps, but he’s not the first player ever to be homophobic, nor will he be the last person too, but in this “Political Correct” world, not even a baseball player can speak his mind.

    I guarantee you there is a homophobic Football player in the NFL right now, as is NBA player. Perhaps they need to get betetr educated, but it is what it is. This shouldn’t even be a cover story, even on the holidays. It’s just one man’s opinion, let it go.

  14. xjokerz - Jan 2, 2013 at 5:14 AM

    Frankly I don’t care as long as he hits for my tigers. The only thing that should be points down upon is bullshit religion. Sorry people gods not real.

  15. jmays77 - Jan 2, 2013 at 11:06 AM

    None of those examples are even in the same league as what Tori said. How can being from Arkansas ever be the same as sexual preference? Like what most people said, it’s opinion. It really doesn’t matter what he said. Because if he is still playing, and he ends up on a team with a homosexual player, he has to play with him regardless of Hunter’s opinion. It’s his job. Please stop blowing this out of proportion.

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