Thom Brennaman apologizes for an on-air homophobic slur.

Spring training is underway, and we’re a month away from the start of the season. It’s usually a time of joy for traditional baseball towns like Cincinnati. And like clockwork, it has become an annual rite for old-school diehards to renew a debate about one of the city’s fallen sons: Thom Brennaman.

Last week, Cincinnati Enquirer columnist Jason Williams wrote a column arguing that it was time for Brennaman to get a second chance. Brennaman has been out of broadcasting since he was infamously fired in August 2020 for uttering a homophobic slur on the air during a Reds game on Fox Sports Ohio. Since then, he has been in mainstream exile. (He does have a daily YouTube talk show called Off The Bench.)

Brennaman, 59, is known more today as a meme (“There’s a drive into deep left field by Castellanos…”). But Williams seems intent on leading a crusade to have Brennaman back on the airwaves. He presented a list of possible jobs that Brennaman would undoubtedly be qualified for, including as a Marshall University broadcaster. Williams cites family connections. He mentions that Marty Brennaman, Thom’s father, has raised money for the baseball program and that Marty’s wife, Amanda, is an alum.

Williams wrapped up his column by writing: “Whether it’s Marshall or someplace else, Brennaman deserves another chance. He’s apologized profusely. He’s been punished enough.”

The reactions on Twitter were, not surprisingly, mixed. The Brennaman family is beloved in Cincinnati, especially Hall of Fame broadcaster Marty Brennaman. The column was well-received by some. Others had a different reaction. Even Thom Brennaman himself weighed in.

Will someone take a chance on Brennaman? Maybe. Should someone take a chance on Brennaman is a different question. A traditional media entity is going to have to be convinced that hiring Brennaman is worth the potential blowback. Plus, Brennaman is going to have to convince many that he has done the work necessary to earn the public’s trust.

It’s one thing to say you’re sorry. It’s another to show that you’re sorry.

Brennaman has actively engaged members of the LGBTQ community in Cincinnati. After one meeting, according to Outsports, he said: “Between the heat, all of the emotions, the hurt, the stories I heard, and really hearing for the first time what the word that I used has meant to other people, in a very real first-hand way.”

Brennaman also recognized that some may never forgive him.  

“There are still people who are really upset with me, and they will be forever,” he said. “All I can do is go out and show the empathy and compassion I have for people of all walks of life. If I can help people understand they have someone who’s on their side, that’s all I can do.”

For most broadcasters, the use of a slur is a career killer. And so far, it has been for Brennaman. But Brennaman also has supporters in the media. There are those, like Williams, who will gladly lobby for his return. It’s almost as if they think they are championing something noble, bringing attention to a charitable cause.

Ultimately, a question remains: How are we supposed to feel about this? Brennaman lost his job over saying something derogatory and dumb. There are consequences, sometimes permanent ones. He’s not a victim, and real people are getting hurt in America. 

According to a study by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, one out of 10 violent victimizations against LGBT people are hate crimes, and LGBT people are nine times more likely than non-LGBT people to be victims of violent hate crimes.

We live in a time when the rights of those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and gender diverse are under attack. Instead of focusing so much on a possible Brennaman return, maybe we should be wondering what is being done by Brennaman and others to assist people who desperately need help.

Williams says Brennaman is a changed man. Being the best LGBT+ ally he can be is a great way for Brennaman to show us how much he has changed.

About Michael Grant

Born in Jamaica. Grew up in New York City. Lives in Louisville, Ky. Sports writer. Not related to Ulysses S. Grant.