One of the most remarkable aspects of Cincinnati Reds’ TV play-by-play announcer Thom Brennaman uttering a homophobic slur (“One of the f*g capitals of the world”) on a Fox Sports Ohio broadcast Thursday is how Brennaman’s various apologies really haven’t addressed what he said or why he said it. That started with his on-broadcast apology during the second half of the double-header, interrupted by a home run, and it continued with his apologies to The Athletic and The Cincinnati Enquirer. And even with Brennaman losing his national NFL on Fox job this year and being suspended from his Reds job, he hasn’t necessarily discussed why what he said was so problematic. Here’s what he told C. Trent Rosecrans of The Athletic:
“I have never in my life, not for one second of my life, have I been homophobic, have I been racist, have I been any of those words that are terrible, terrible words,” he told The Athletic. “And I would stand next to any LGBT person in the world, and lock arm-in-arm with them that they have all the same rights as every other person born on God’s green earth.”
Yeah, well, as many pointed out, there was at least one second Wednesday where Brennaman was very publicly homophobic. And his apology in a letter to the Enquirer Thursday didn’t exactly admit much wrongdoing either:
I could to try to explain it or tell you about who I am and what I believe, but those things would all be excuses. The simple fact is, what I said was wrong.
I used a word that is both offensive and insulting. In the past 24 hours, I have read about its history; I had no idea it was so rooted in hate and violence and am particularly ashamed that I, someone who makes his living by the use of words, could be so careless and insensitive. It’s a word that should have no place in my vocabulary and I will certainly never utter it again.
On some levels, yes, it is positive that Brennaman now recognizes the issue with what he said Wednesday, even if he didn’t expect that his comments there would be broadcast. But his apologies still illustrate that he didn’t have much of a clue of what he was doing (problematic for someone who “makes his living by the use of words”!), and they don’t go all that far.And he really doesn’t appear to understand why his usage of “f*g” was so problematic in the first place.
Still, there are some arguments out there that it might work out in the long run for Brennaman to demonstrate a commitment to growth and retain his Reds’ job. Cyd Ziegler, the co-founder of LGBTQIA-positive sports site Outsports, had some interesting thoughts there Thursday:
I’ve been consistent, particularly in recent years, pushing for suspensions (and a suspension here is well-deserved) and against people losing their jobs. It’s because I’ve seen what can happen when people in sports are given a second chance.
…So what are the steps I’d lay out for Brennaman during what I think is a deserved indefinite suspension?
- If he means it, start with a better apology and talk about taking some time away to listen and learn
- Contact PFLAG Cincinnati and find ways Brennaman can talk with LGBTQ youth and their parents and listen about their lives
- Reach out to You Can Play, as they have important information about the power of anti-LGBTQ language
- Give Billy Bean a call. The Reds have his number
- Map out a couple of concrete actions to take to demonstrate through action what he’s learned
- After all of this, speak to an LGBTQ media outlet (may I recommend Outsports) and talk about what he’s learned through these conversations and what those next steps will be.
And when all of that is said and done, and the Cincinnati Reds and his other employers believe there’s been some real movement here, I’d support giving him a second chance.
There are some good points there. And if Brennaman really is committed to learning and improving and working to get better, there may yet be a path back for him. But his comments so far haven’t exactly shown that.