Thoughts on Pillar, Sport Culture, and Personal Anecdotes

Kevin Pillar of the Toronto Blue Jays was suspended 2 games for his use of a homophobic slur towards Jason Motte of the Atlanta Braves.

Kevin Pillar had lived up to his nickname of “superman” this season for the Toronto Blue Jays.  That was until Wednesday night, when he was seen uttering a homophobic slur towards Braves pitcher Jason Motte.

The reaction to this type of event is usually similar, the team issues a statement, the player issues an apology, and then continues to explain how much this has impacted them.

The “heat of the moment” excuse was used by Pillar and it’s an excuse that gets thrown around to justify actions that would not be tolerated outside the realm of professional sports.

Where else are situations handled like this?

The problem with this excuse is that these homophobic slurs are common place in professional sports.  Whether it is in the locker room, on the ice, or away from the field.  There is no accountability amongst the players in different sports as these incidents seem to be re-occuring.  It makes you wonder how often the camera misses homophobic slurs that are said in the “heat of the moment”.

The recent athletes to use homophobic slurs include Andrew Shaw, Rajon Rondo, and Yunel Escobar.  These are just the examples that were brought to light.  Andrew Shaw is the most recent example outside of Pillar, as he was caught on camera in last years playoffs using a homophobic slur.

Watch Andrew Shaw’s apology below:

Similar to Pillar’s apology, Shaw mentions being caught up in the “emotion”, and how this whole ordeal impacted him.  They both acknowledged the lack of sleep they had the night after the incident.

I can remember watching analysis of this incident from different hockey insiders, who explained that this doesn’t have a part in the game and how this came as a shock to them.  Their comments were more shocking than the idea that homophobia and homophobic slurs exist in sports.

The lack of acknowledgement of this issue is the problem.  This is not a “bad apple” scenario but rather a systemic problem that extends into the lower ranks of sports as well.

The biggest motivator in sports is teammate accountability.  If the leaders on each team do not hold others accountable for the language they use then this is exactly the kind of sloppy language that will come out in the “heat of the moment”.  The english language has a plethora of swear words that do not directly marginalize a group of people; so let’s stick to those words in the “heat of the moment”.

Now, I am going to take a second to explain my experience with homophobia in sports.  I come from a hockey background, having played Major Junior and currently playing for Ryerson University.

A locker room is a microcosm of society as you get people from all walks of life and vastly different upbringings.  It can be a challenge dealing with different ideals, or lack thereof, found in the locker room.

I have been in dressing rooms where homophobic slurs are common place, due to a lack of understanding of who that may be impacting.  I don’t think there has ever been an out player in the CHL who was currently playing.  That means a lot of closeted players were subjected to their teammates, completely disrespecting them and their sexual orientation.

Even being a heterosexual player who was sympathetic to different causes and events like Pride Toronto, and You Can Play, I often felt uncomfortable.  Last summer I went to my first ever Pride in Toronto and remember being uncomfortable to post an Instagram picture because I was worried I would be perceived as something I wasn’t.  After thinking about how stupid I was for even thinking this I immediately posted the photo and haven’t looked back since.

I wrote this to challenge the way the media portrays events like this and tried to couple that with my experience as an athlete at a semi-professional level.  If you haven’t already please check out You Can Play, as it is a charity that tries to create inclusion in sport for the LGBT community.

To Mr. Pillar, I hope to see you at Pride Toronto this summer.

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