Sept. 18, 2012; Anaheim, CA, USA; Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout (27) and right fielder Torii Hunter (48) take the field for batting practice before the game against the Texas Rangers at Angel Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

In Defense of Torii Hunter

Torii Hunter shouldn’t be getting any crap for this, frankly. I don’t know, what with the holidays and the fiscal cliff, if this is going to become a major distraction for Mr. Hunter but he is getting a certain amount of flak in the press and on the internet for what Kevin Baxter of the LA Times quoted him as saying about homosexuals in sports. Hunter has said that comments were taken out of context and combined by Baxter to paint a picture of Hunter that does not reflect his actual views. I don’t much doubt Hunter on that, Baxter’s piece was purpose written to provide evidence for the pervasive pressure in sports that seems to prevent just about anyone from coming out. Baxter has a point, I don’t believe for a minute that there aren’t any gay baseball players but there don’t seem to be any openly gay baseball players. Personally, I think that’s a shame.

Nonetheless, while you may or may not actually agree with or respect what Hunter reportedly said – if you take that word for word there isn’t really anything there for anyone in the press or the blogosphere to be condemning Hunter over. He reportedly admitted that he would be uncomfortable with a gay teammate in the locker room and stated that he was brought up to believe that homosexuality was wrong. You might not believe that either of those things are “right” or anything to be proud of, but the language Hunter used (in that potentially misrepresented quote) doesn’t go that far. That’s the blunt truth about Torii Hunter and he’s simply stating the fact of his prejudice. Prejudice does exist, but most people tend to get over it when actually presented with those situations in real life – situations that as Baxter notes pro athletes may have never been presented with. That is a far cry from refusing to play alongside a gay player, or a black player, or a woman nor is it the same thing as spouting off slurs and vitriol. Don’t laud Torii Hunter for speaking the blunt truth about how he feels, his opinions aren’t something to be particularly proud of even if they are shared by many, nonetheless there’s no reason to bash him either.

There’s another – completely unrelated – issue that Hunter is taking some abuse over on the internets, if only in California: his criticism of LA Angels ownership after the Josh Hamilton signing. It is very, very easy – given how much pro athletes get paid – to rub fans the wrong way when you start complaining about contract offers. So… Hunter should have expected that anything that he’d say on the subject would not be taken well by Angels fans. Nonetheless – Hunter didn’t seem to be complaining about the Angels unwillingness to pay him what other teams were willing to pay him, which is how this issue seems to be presented by those who want to criticize him. Hunter was complaining about management telling him that they couldn’t afford him when it was patently false – so when they gave Hamilton that big paycheck to pay his old position he felt lied to. They could afford him, they just didn’t think he was worth it and wanted to allocate that money elsewhere. It might have been better for all parties involved if they had spoken the blunt truth about that and I don’t fault Hunter for being forthright about wanting others to be forthright, even when that means saying things that other people don’t want to hear.

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  • beelza

    Shahid Khan owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars. His religion is Islam. Islam has ZERO tolerance homosexuality. I expect the same outrage that various media has for Torii to be equally applied to Khan. In Kahn’s religion you can be put to death for engaging in any homosexual behaviour. Should Kahn face “social sanctions” or fan pressure for his ideology-of course not. So the difference b/t Torii and Khan is one whom verbalized his belief and one whom did not. Tigers nation embraces Torii and we welcome him. Detroiters know well that the majority of the country has a very low opinion for us, our lifestyle, our city. In this light, we don’t give a rats ass what anyone else thinks. Now come tell me I’m intolerant and people like me are the reason Detrroit…blah, blah blah. LA Times writer is creating news, not reporting it. Said writer is trying to sew the seeds of social discord. This country’s founders intended to have public opinion and it’s expressions therein protected from entities (government). Now their are limitations to this freedom, but Torii in no way approached the line that defines these limitations.

    • louwhitaker

      Nice screed, beelza. I did a quick Google search and can find not a shred of evidence that Shahid Khan has any views one way or the other about gays. I live a couple of blocks from a mosque; there are lots of people in my neighborhood who are Islamic. There are also a lot of gay people in my neighborhood, and the two groups get along with no discernible tension. Most religions profess things that a lot of their adherents choose to ignore; the overwhelming majority of Catholics I know seem to use birth control.

  • Bruce Levine

    Professional athletes have had gay teammates in their locker rooms forever. They just haven’t come out. But they’re there. And they’re going to come out. So get used to it.

    • chrisHannum

      I absolutely agree

  • David Robertson

    Although what Torii Hunter said wasn’t explicitly hateful, it was discriminatory, it will cause a ripple effect given his status in the MLB world and sports world in general, and it should be condemned. Replace gay with any other word and it would be condemned. This is also being condemned too, and yes, he’s entitled to his opinions. He spoke the blunt truth. But we need to remember the people who are truly hurt by this—–non-heterosexual athletes. This is yet another dig at them, and another step towards keeping them from being open and comfortable. And that’s really sad.