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Matt Joyce receives a two-game suspension for using anti-gay slur

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Athletics’ right fielder Matt Joyce has been suspended for two games without pay, Major League Baseball announced Saturday. The suspension follows an unsavory incident during the eighth inning of Friday’s game against the Angels, when Associated Press photographer Mark J. Terrill overheard Joyce making anti-gay remarks to a fan who was heckling him in the stands. During Joyce’s suspension, the Athletics will donate over $54,000 of his salary to PFLAG, a national organization devoted to family and ally organization in unison with the LGBTQ+ community. He is also expected to participate in a public outreach initiative with the organization.

The outfielder took to Twitter to issue a lengthy apology on Saturday, and further explained the nature of the heckling and his response to it:

In regard to last night’s incident, I first and foremost want to sincerely apologize to the fans, the Oakland A’s, MLB and the [sic] most importantly the LGBTQ community for my comments and actions. A fan yelled vulgar and obscene words about me and my family and I let my frustrations and emotions get the better of me. I am beyond sorry for the inappropriate language that I used and I understand and agree that those words should NEVER come out of someone’s mouth no matter the situation. Anyone who knows me will tell you that incident it is not reflective of me as a person, how I treat others, how I live my life and that those hurtful words are not my views. I fully support and hope to help the LGBTQ community with their efforts in being treated fairly and intend to let my actions speak louder than anything more that can be said about this truly regrettable moment.

Over the last several years, the Athletics have exhibited a no-tolerance policy towards players who express anti-LGBTQ+ sentiments, suspending minor league left-hander Ian Krol and releasing another minor league player over similar incidents in 2011 and 2017, respectively. They also issued a formal statement on Saturday, acknowledging Joyce’s apology and making it clear that the language he chose was not in line with their views:

The Oakland Athletics are very disappointed by the comments Matt Joyce made to a fan during the eighth inning of last night’s game. This language is unacceptable and will not be tolerated by our team. We pride ourselves on being inclusive and expect our entire organization to live up to higher standards. We appreciate that Matt is contrite about his conduct and know he will learn from this incident.

Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle points out that outfielders are often frequent targets of heckling, and Joyce’s recent poor performance for the Angels likely factored into the situation as well. While players aren’t required to turn the other cheek when fans take things too far, wielding an anti-gay slur in self-defense is not only unacceptable, but reprehensible.

Angels fire back at Rob Manfred’s comments re: Mike Trout

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Angels outfielder Mike Trout‘s marketability has been a topic of conversation in recent days as the best players in baseball converged upon Washington, D.C. for the All-Star Game. We learned that, according to one firm that measures consumer appeal of personalities, Trout is as recognizable to the average American as Brooklyn Nets reserve forward Kenneth Faried, despite being far and away the best player in baseball and one of the greatest players ever to play the game.

Commissioner Rob Manfred also addressed Trout’s marketability, Gabe Lacques of USA TODAY Sports reported. Manfred said, “Mike has made decisions on what he wants to do, doesn’t want to do, how he wants to spend his free time or not spend his free time. I think we could help him make his brand very bug. But he has to make a decision to engage. It takes time and effort.”

The Angels fired back on Wednesday, releasing a statement that said:

On behalf of the Angels Organization and baseball fans everywhere, congratulations to Mike Trout on another outstanding All-Star Game performance.

Mike Trout is an exceptional ambassador for the game. Combined with his talent, his solid character creates a perfect role model for young people everywhere. Each year, Mike devotes a tremendous amount of his time and effort contributing to our Organization, and marketing Major League Baseball. He continually chooses to participate in the community, visiting hospitals, schools, and countless other charities. One of Mike’s traits that people admire most is his humility. His brand is built upon generously spending his time engaging with fans, both at home and on the road, while remaining a remarkable baseball player and teammate.

In addition, Mike spends quality time as a husband, son, brother, uncle, and friend. We applaud him for prioritizing his personal values over commercial self-promotion. That is rare in today’s society and stands out as much as his extraordinary talent.

It’s not on Trout to build a brand that appeals to MLB’s marketing department, so the Angels are right to back Trout’s decision to stay out of the limelight. The Angels’ motivation likely isn’t entirely selfless, however, as supporting him in this situation may make it more enticing for him to sign a contract extension before his current contract expires after the 2020 season.