By Richard Hack
It is all over for sportscaster Thom Brennaman. Fox Sports has made it official that Brennaman will not be part of its NFL broadcasting team this season. The reason: an anti-gay slur last Wednesday night during a Cincinnati Reds broadcast.
“One of the f-g capitals of the world,” a man could be heard saying before introducing the Fox Sports broadcast between the Reds and Royals in Kansas City.
“FOX Sports is extremely disappointed with Thom Brennaman’s remarks during Wednesday’s Cincinnati Reds telecast,” Fox said. “The language used was abhorrent, unacceptable, and not representative of the values of FOX Sports.”
— FOX19 NOW (@FOX19) August 20, 2020
The Cincinnati Reds immediately distanced themselves from the broadcaster who is employed by Fox Sports Ohio.
“The Cincinnati Reds organization is devastated the horrific homophobic remark made this evening by broadcast Thom Brennaman. He was pulled off the air and effective immediately was suspended from doing Reds broadcasts. We will be addressing our broadcast team in the coming days. In no way does this incident reflect our players, coaches, organization or our fans.
“We share our sincerest apologies to the LGBTQ+ community in Cincinnati, Kansas City, all across this country and beyond. The Reds embrace a zero-tolerance policy for bias or discrimination of any king, and we are truly sorry for anyone who has been offended.”
Even more direct to the point, Billy Bean, VP and Special Assistant to the Commissioner of Major League Baseball, called the incident “disheartening.” Bean, who is openly gay, and was appointed as the first Ambassador of Inclusion at the MLB before his latest promotion, is also a member of the board of LGBTQ Loyalty Holdings, Inc.
“The unfortunate event that occurred last night in Cincinnati was disheartening. The Reds’ immediate response and statement are a powerful example of MLB’s zero-tolerance policy for harassment, discrimination, or bias toward the LGBTQ+ community or any person at any time. There is no doubt where MLB stands in regard to respect and acceptance for our players, coaches, employees, fans, and our television viewers.
“Our unified belief in education and workplace protection has helped change the landscape for all of professional sports. Last night is a difficult reminder that there is still much work to do. We will pause for a moment, and utilize this incident as a learning opportunity for every one of our stakeholders.”
It is hardly surprising that Bean is disheartened. He has been working to remove discrimination from the world of professional sports since well before he was hired by MLB in 2014.
Yet for Brennaman, who has been calling NFL and MLB games for Fox Sports since the network began televising them in 1994, the sexual slur slipped too easily off his lips to be a one-time event. If it had been a mere slip-of-the-tongue, his on-air apology would have been to the LGBTQ community who he blanketed with the offense. But it wasn’t. Brennaman cared only about his paycheck.
“I made a comment earlier tonight,” he said before leaving the booth, “that I guess went out over the air, that I am deeply ashamed of. If I have hurt anyone out there, I can’t tell you how much I say from the bottom of my heart that I’m so very, very sorry. I pride myself and think of myself as a man of faith.” (At this point, he interrupted his apology to announce a home run, making it a 4-0 ballgame.)
“I don’t know if I’ll be putting on this headset again. I don’t know if it’s going to be for the Reds; I don’t know if it’s going to be for my bosses at Fox. I apologize for the people who sign my paycheck, for the Reds, for Fox Sports Ohio, for the people I work with, for anybody I’ve offended here tonight. I can’t begin to tell you how deeply sorry I am. That is not who I am, and never has been. And I’d like to think that I could have some people who could back that up,” Brennaman said. “I am very, very sorry and I beg for your forgiveness.”
The following day, Brennaman spoke to MLB’s Bean, who said he would work with Brennaman so that he might “become a more informed person.”
“”I immediately plan to participate in diversity, equity and inclusion training and have reached out to PFLAG for resources and guidance,” Brennaman said.