Caught in the midst of last night’s bench-clearing brawls was Kevin Pillar and some ugly word choice. Following a strikeout in the 7th inning, Pillar appeared to yell a homophobic slur towards Braves pitcher Jason Motte. The benches cleared for the first time of the night (Jose Bautista would later flip his bat, while down 8-4, to get everyone riled up again). The Blue Jays must now take steps to ensure that this behaviour does not repeat itself in the future.
It was not immediately clear what Pillar said. Some attempts at lip-reading made it seem as though he had voiced the slur. Gregor Chisholm of mlb.com spoke to Pillar after the game. Here is what Pillar had to say:
Players normally don’t talk about “reaching out” and using this as “something to learn from” if it was just typical in-game frustration. This is a bad look for Pillar, and for the Blue Jays as a whole. The team cannot allow him to move forward without some kind of discipline. As Shi Davidi reports, the league has its own investigation underway:
Major League Baseball is investigating Kevin Pillar's possible use of a homophobic slur last night in exchange with Jason Motte.
— Shi Davidi (@ShiDavidi) May 18, 2017
The Blue Jays have dealt with a similar issue in the past. In September 2012, Yunel Escobar wrote a homophobic slur on his eyeblack. The Jays suspended him for three games, and donated his salary to pro-LGBT organizations. Notwithstanding what the league determines, it seems appropriate for the Jays to do at least the same with Pillar.
I understand that the two situations are not identical. Escobar’s situation was obviously pre-mediated, whereas Pillar’s was more spur of the moment. I appreciate that, but if the team wants to take a stand against this type of behaviour, then it must act strongly. This also means that the league’s discipline does not preclude the Jays from enforcing their own.
Pillar may not have decided to use the slur in advance, but it was still part of his vocabulary, and he opted to use it in a hurry. That behaviour is unbecoming of a 12-year-old playing Call of Duty, let alone someone in Pillar’s position. He simply ought to know better. The harm caused is not necessarily pointed directly at Motte or at the Braves, or at any group in particular. I don’t believe that Pillar was even conscious of how it could impact the LGBT community when he used it – it was simply him releasing some frustration. The problem is that, instead of a casual insult that regularly appears in the game, Pillar chose to use a word that has long been used to discriminate and marginalize a particular group. This would be unacceptable if it was a racial or ethnic slur, and should be treated no differently simply because it is homophobic.
Should Pillar be run out of Toronto, as Escobar nearly was? I don’t think so. This comes back to the premeditation vs. heat of the moment element. What should happen, though, is for Pillar to issue the apologies he has promised, and donate some salary to groups in need. I would like to see it taken to the next step, and have Pillar actively engage with the LGBT organizations in Toronto, both as an opportunity for them to educate him, and for him to provide them with support in the future.
Words have consequences. Some would like to imagine a world where you can say what you want, and if anyone gets offended, then that’s their problem. Pillar obviously isn’t of that mindset. He understands that his words were harmful, as he immediately showed regret. However, if both he and the Blue Jays want to make a serious statement, then they must make it clear that this type of behaviour will not be tolerated.