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Daniel Murphy on Billy Bean: “I do disagree with the fact that Billy is a homosexual”

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Baseball’s Ambassador for Inclusion, Billy Bean was the first ballplayer to come out of the closet and declare the fact of his homosexuality after his playing career ended in the 1990s. Last year, Major League Baseball made Bean its “ambassador for inclusion,” with the mission of providing guidance and training related to efforts to support those in the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community throughout Major League Baseball.

As part of that mission, Bean — like any other number of dignitaries, ambassadors, special instructors, speakers and the like — is visiting with teams this spring. Some teams, such as a the Mets, have asked Bean to actually suit up in uniform during his day with the team. That happened yesterday down in Port St. Lucie.

Mets’ infielder Daniel Murphy’s comments about that happened as well:

“I disagree with his lifestyle,” Murphy said. “I do disagree with the fact that Billy is a homosexual. That doesn’t mean I can’t still invest in him and get to know him. I don’t think the fact that someone is a homosexual should completely shut the door on investing in them in a relational aspect. Getting to know him. That, I would say, you can still accept them but I do disagree with the lifestyle, 100 percent.”

 

Murphy went on:

“We love the people. We disagree the lifestyle. That’s the way I would describe it for me. It’s the same way that there are aspects of my life that I’m trying to surrender to Christ in my own life. There’s a great deal of many things, like my pride. I just think that as a believer trying to articulate it in a way that says just because I disagree with the lifestyle doesn’t mean I’m just never going to speak to Billy Bean every time he walks through the door. That’s not love. That’s not love at all.”

There are certainly notes in Murphy’s comments which suggest compassion and which clearly reveal that his feelings are not that of a stereotypical homophobe. Murphy is certainly not going to bash Bean or hurl any epithets at the guy. But there is no escaping the fact that that the terms in which he couches his feelings about all of this are representative of the sort of mindset, whether it’s based in his own Christianity or, coming from another person might be based in something else, which has led to the discrimination, hate and marginalization of homosexuals throughout history.

“Disagreeing” with Bean or anyone else’s homosexuality is nonsensical. It’s not an opinion. It’s not a philosophy, political position, choice or a world view. It’s a fact. It’s part of who Bean is as a person. To say one “disagrees” with Bean’s homosexuality is no more coherent than saying one “disagrees” with Murphy’s left-handedness. Or with Murphy’s heterosexuality for that matter. Who would ever say they “disagreed” with Murphy’s heterosexuality? What would we think of a person who said that?

And then there is the classic “hate the sin, not the sinner” rhetoric. The “I’m trying to surrender aspects of my life to Christ” stuff which — again, while certainly something Murphy sincerely thinks of as admirable and generous — are words often used to describe bad behavior. You hear that about drug use and alcoholism. You hear it from people who commit crimes or who abuse spouses and children but who later find God. It’s a sentiment which I believe Murphy truly thinks of as compassion and love. But it’s also the case that the root of that very stance — that homosexuality is a sin — is what has given society cover to discriminate against homosexuality throughout history and to continue to do that to this day. It’s also what has led to untold amounts of violence and hatred against homosexuals because, well, not all religious thought agrees with Murphy’s views about compassion towards sinners.

There will be a lot of people getting on Murphy’s case today. When they do, there will be a lot of people offering some variation of “hey, it’s just his opinion, man.” Murphy is merely speaking his mind (as we sportswriters all wish more athletes would), and how dare we jump on a guy for merely saying how he feels? A more specific version of that response is to say that Murphy is entitled to his own religious convictions, and that we shouldn’t criticize a guy for them, even if we personally “disagree.”

I reject such a defense. Even if his religion has taught him that homosexuality is wrong, and even if one thinks Murphy has the absolute right, as a citizen, to say what he wants about it (which he certainly does), there is no escaping the fact that such comments are ignorant. That they, however politely put, serve to marginalize a great many people. That they, when taken to their logical extreme, encourage and/or give cover for bigotry and violence and hatred.

Given that Murphy does not appear to have any animus about him in his comments makes it safe to say that he doesn’t necessarily realize that. But the fact that he does not realize that shows you just how essential Billy Bean’s message in his new role — that its important to support LGBT persons in the baseball community — really is.

UPDATE: Bean responds to Murphy’s comments.

James McCann is in The Best Shape of His Life

Detroit Tigers catcher James McCann blows a bubble while warming up during a spring training baseball workout, Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016, in Lakeland, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
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As I note every spring, “Best Shape of His Life” stories aren’t really about players being in The Best Shape of Their Lives. They’re about players and agents seeking to create positive stories.

We know this because the vast majority of Best Shape of His Life claims are about guys who were either injured the season before, guys who had subpar years the season before or players whose conditioning was a point of controversy the season before. These folks, or their agents + reporters who have little if nothing to write about in the offseason = BSOHL.

James McCann hurt his ankle last season and had a subpar year at the plate. So not only is he a perfect BSOHL candidate, he went old school with the claim and hit it right on the money, verbatim:

Spring training is less than a month away, folks!

Bo Jackson is not gonna change kids’ minds

1989:  Bo Jackson #16 of the Kansas City Royals practices his swing as he prepares to bat during a game in the 1989 season.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Last week Bo Jackson said that, if he had it to do all over again, he would have never played professional football and that he would never let his kids play. The sport is too violent, he said. “I’d tell them, ‘Play baseball, basketball, soccer, golf, just anything but football.’”

Fair enough. Thom Loverro of the Washington Times, however, thinks that Bo could do more than simply give his opinion on the matter. He thinks Bo should become an official ambassador for Major League Baseball:

Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred, pick up the phone right now and call Bo Jackson. Tell him you have a job for him — vice president of something, whatever you would call the man in charge of converting a generation of young athletes to baseball. And pay him what he wants.

You won’t find a better symbol of the differences between the two sports than Bo Jackson. After all, he was an All-Star in both. Bo knows football. Bo knows baseball.

Bo, tell the children — baseball over football.

The Children: “Who is Bo Jackson?”

Yeah, I’m being a bit flip here, but dude: Jackson is 54 years-old. He last played baseball 23 years ago. I’d personally run through a wall for Bo Jackson, but I’m 43. I was 12 when he won the Heisman trophy. While he may loom large to middle aged sports writers, a teenager contemplating what sport to play is not going to listen to someone a decade or more older than his parents.

This isn’t terribly important in the grand scheme of things, but it’s indicative of how most columnists process the world through their own experiences and assume they apply universally. It’s probably the biggest trap most sports opinion folks fall into.