Andy Martino of the Daily News has a somewhat provocative item today. A day after Jason Collins came out of the closet, he wonders whether baseball would truly be accepting of a gay player in its ranks.
He acknowledges that, publicly, yes, it would. As the reaction to Collins’ announcement yesterday made clear, almost everyone in any sort of prominent position knows the right things to say. Most of them believe it. But there are likely some, Martino says, who would only be doing so as an exercise in p.r. or damage control while actually harboring negative or hostile feelings. By way of example, Martino passes along some observations from clubhouses over the years:
Baseball once led the country on race, but there are many reasons to believe it will lag behind basketball and other sports on the defining civil rights issue of this moment … What if one of your teammates is, for example, the player who I once saw sprawled on a clubhouse couch, watching an “It Gets Better” ad on TV, shaking his head and sighing?
“This is how P.C. the world is now?” he complained, while a few others chortled. “I can’t even say f-g?”
Martino also speaks with Billy Bean, who came out after his eight year playing career ended in the mid-90s. Bean agrees that it might very well be tougher in baseball than in any other sport.
And it may. But I think the concern about those who would harbor secret hostility is a sort of beside the point. The racists didn’t leave baseball in April 1947. There are likely still many on rosters even today. The point is that it has become socially unacceptable to be an open racist and to discriminate against minorities. And, as we’re increasingly seeing today, it is becoming socially unacceptable to be an open homophobe and to discriminate against gay people.
Ideally you want to change hearts and minds along with the policies. And, of course, life would be much easier for a gay player if said hearts and minds were changed too. But it’s not likely or even necessary that such a thing happen. Pushing those who harbor fear or hatred against minorities into a closet of their own is good enough for the time being. Maybe once they’re in there, they’ll realize that they are, increasingly, the isolated minority.
When he’s not throwing baseballs, Twins pitcher Trevor May is an active gamer. He streams on Twitch, a very popular video game streaming site, fairly regularly and now he’s officially on an eSports team. Luminosity Gaming announced the organization added May last Friday. It appears he’ll be streaming and commentating on Overwatch, a multiplayer first-person shooter made by Blizzard Entertainment.
May is the only current athlete to be an active member of an eSports team. Former NBA player Rick Fox owns Echo Fox, an eSports team that sports players in games including League of Legends, Super Smash Bros. Melee, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, Street Fighter V, Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and Mortal Kombat X. Jazz forward Gordon Hayward is also a known advocate of eSports.
The NBA in particular has been very active on the eSports front. Kings co-owners Andy Miller and Mark Mastrov launched NRG eSports in November 2015. Shortly thereafter, Grizzlies co-owner Stephen Kaplan invested in the Immortals eSports team. Almost a year later, the 76ers acquired controlling stakes in Team Dignitas and Team Apex. The same month, the Wizards’ and Warriors’ owners launched a group called Axiomatic, which purchased a controlling stake in Team Liquid, a long-time Starcraft: Brood War website which has since branched out into other games. And also in September 2016, Celtics forward Jonas Jerebko bought team Renegades, moving them to a group house in Detroit. In December 2016, the Bucks submitted a deal to Riot Games in order to purchase Cloud9’s Challenger league spot for $2.5 million. The Rockets that month hired someone specifically for eSports development, focusing on strategy and investment. Last month, the Heat acquired a controlling stake in team Misfits.
Once an afterthought, eSports has grown considerably in recent years and now it should be considered a competitor to traditional sports. League of Legends, in particular, is quite popular, reaching nearly 15 million concurrent viewers at its peak in the most recent League of Legends World Championship. That championship featured a prize purse of $6.7 million with $2 million of it being split among winner SK Telecom T1’s members.
The Orioles have re-signed outfielder Michael Bourn to a minor league contract with an invitation to major league camp, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports.
Bourn, 34, joined the Orioles last year in a trade from the Diamondbacks on August 31. Though he compiled a meager .669 OPS with the Diamondbacks, Bourn hit a solid .283/.358/.435 in 55 plate appearances with the O’s through the end of the season.
Bourn, a non-roster invitee to camp, will try to play his way onto the Orioles’ 25-man roster. If he does make the roster, Bourn will receive a $2 million salary, Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports points out.