In the seventh inning of the Atlanta Braves' 8-4 win over the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday, Braves reliever Jason Motte struck out Jays outfielder Kevin Pillar on an 0-2 slider, using a quick-pitch that upset Pillar so much that he yelled what appeared to be an anti-gay slur at Motte, leading to a benches-clearing incident.
In reviewing the video, it certainly appears that Pillar said what everyone believes he said. I don’t know if Pillar grasped after the game that video would show this, but he sort of issued an apology to Motte after the game -- "It was immature, it was stupid, it was uncalled for. It’s part of the game." On Thursday, after Major League Baseball launched an investigation, Pillar issued a more complete apology on his Twitter account:
Yes, this happened in the heat of the moment, but that doesn’t excuse using that word. The league should suspend Pillar for at least one game, maybe two. Would people accept an athlete using the N-word in the heat of the moment? No, and the slur Pillar used isn’t acceptable either.
The Blue Jays announced a two-game suspension for Pillar on Thursday afternoon, and there is precedent for such a ban. Yunel Escobar, then with the Blue Jays, was suspended for three games in 2012 after writing an anti-gay slur on his eye-black patches. In the NBA, Rajon Rondo, then with the Sacramento Kings, was suspended for one game in December 2015 for using the slur toward a referee.
It’s worth noting that Escobar was essentially run out of town after his incident, which happened in September. After the season, he was traded to the Marlins, who traded him a few days later to the Rays.
Of course, Escobar had a bad season, while Pillar has been the Blue Jays’ best player so far, hitting .305/.357/.497 with his usual excellent defense in center field. So he’s not going to be run out of town. Still, his image has been tarnished. For fans who want to make excuses for him, ask yourself: What would be the first words out of your mouth in the heat of the moment? Maybe a curse word, but most of us wouldn’t dig up such a hateful slur. At least, I hope not.
It’s about treating everyone with respect and dignity. Athletes, like it or not, are public figures and should be held to a code of conduct of acceptable behavior in this regard, so a short suspension for Pillar is fair and in order.