There’s a certain spectre of celebrity when it comes to being a highly regarded professional athlete.
You’re a known entity. Your face is familiar. The daily highlight packages quite likely includes a healthy dose of certain stars. Save, perhaps, for footage of a spectacular feat in a sport at any level.
In Canada, it is hockey that typically rules in print, television, and online.
Except all that slowly changes in those few months a year when the Toronto Blue
Jays make their late winter pilgrimage to spring training, and then return north of the border to get their 162-game season underway.
The Jays benefit by being the only Major League Baseball team in Canada, and by being owned by Rogers, which also happens to have a handful of television stations dedicated to sports and nothing else.
Coast-to-coast attention is what follows this team, and it has certainly ratcheted up the past few seasons with the Jays being one of the league’s better teams, and making consecutive trips to the American League championship series.
A black cloud hung over the team last week, however, and it had little to do with the club’s poor start to the current season.
During a game in Atlanta last week, star centerfielder Kevin Pillar was at the plate late in the game, and down two strikes he missed an attempt to save himself from being the third out of the inning.
What came next stopped both the Braves’ pitcher and catcher in their tracks.
As was evident in the video replay, Pillar hurled less than pleasing language at Atlanta pitcher Jason Motte.
This led to both teams’ benches clearing, though the dust was settled before any punches were thrown.
Most evident in the aftermath was the self-sabotage Pillar had done to himself in what was certainly a moment without an ounce of mental clarity.
Pillar has made a name for himself in the past handful of seasons thanks to a number of spectacular defensive efforts, and timely production at the plate. He’s gone from being a perennial roster cut when the Jays broke its big league camp in the spring to an everyday player of All-Star calibre.
More than that, he’s become a fan favourite for giving back to the baseball community in not only Toronto, but throughout Canada.
Never has he given off the belief that he’s a hateful person, despite his use of a truly hate-filled word. Though neither side involved in Pillar’s ultimate two-game suspension have dared repeat the word that was said, a simple reading of his lips in the game replay makes it quite clear.
It was homophobic, and it was utterly unnecessary. More than that, it was disappointing to see Pillar even make use of the word, and his actions are indicative of why society must continue its work to wipe out homophobia at all levels.
There is no doubt that Pillar has shown a great deal of remorse for his ill-informed reaction, and the Jays suspending him without pay was the right move.
Everyone should be held accountable for their choice of slander.
There’s no place for it anymore.