By KARMA ALLEN and TONY MORRISON, ABC News
(CINCINNATI) — LGBTQ advocates are pressuring broadcast executives to sever ties with veteran Cincinnati Reds play-by-play man Thom Brennaman amid growing outrage over his use of an anti-gay slur caught on a hot mic.
Brennaman, who also announces NFL games for Fox, shocked many during Wednesday night’s Reds-Royals game when he referred to a city or place as “the f– capital of the world.”
Brennaman apologized on air, stopping midway through his statement to return to play-by-play action to call a home run. He finished his apology, then handed over his microphone.
“I made a comment earlier tonight that I guess went out over the air that I am deeply ashamed of,” Brennaman said. “If I have hurt anyone out there, I can’t tell you how much I say from the bottom of my heart I’m so very, very sorry. I pride myself and think of myself as a man of faith.”
Brennaman, who’s worked as a national broadcaster for the MLB on Fox for nearly two decades, acknowledged that his career might be in jeopardy in light of the remark. He apologized directly to his employers.
“I don’t know if I’m going to 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,” he said. “I will apologize for the people who sign my paycheck, for the Reds, for Fox Sports Ohio, for the people I work with, for anybody that I’ve offended here tonight.”
Social media erupted after the remark with many calling his apology flat and insincere. Reds pitcher Amir Garrett tweeted his own apology to fans, especially those who identify as LGBTQ.
“To the LGBTQ community just know i am with you, and whoever is against you, is against me,” he tweeted. “I’m sorry for what was said.”
The Reds blasted Brennaman’s actions as “horrific” and suspended him indefinitely, effective immediately.
“We share our sincerest apologies to the LGBTQ+ community in Cincinnati, Kansas City, all across this country, and beyond,” the team’s statement said.
— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) August 20, 2020
Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, called the incident “unfortunate” in an interview with ABC News’ Good Morning America on Thursday.
“This unfortunate incident is just a reflection of the bias that we still have in our communities and we have to root it out,” David said. “Although he made an apology, I think we need to really think about how this is how he felt so comfortable in the first place.”
GLAAD issued a similar rebuke.
“It’s troubling how casually and recklessly Brennaman used the slur — while wearing a microphone, during a live broadcast — like he didn’t know or care how hurtful it was to say it,” the organization said in a statement.
The LGBTQ media advocacy organization said Brennaman “whiffed with his ‘I’m sorry if I offended’ apology,” a move it said highlights the broadcaster’s “bigoted beliefs.”
“It’s a weak way of not owning up to your mistakes and bigoted beliefs. LGBTQ people, who are among Reds fans and Royals fans, deserve far better,” GLAAD said.
The organization, which dubs itself as “the voice for acceptance,” said it reached out to Major League Baseball, the Reds and Fox Sports to demand accountability for “this unacceptable and thoughtless behavior.”
Major League Baseball officials called the incident “disheartening” in a statement, and Fox Sports said later on Thursday it wouldn’t have Brennaman call NFL games this fall.
Billy Bean, a vice president and special assistant to the commissioner, issued a statement on behalf of MLB. Bean was among the first MLB players to come out as gay, giving an interview on the subject in 1999, four years after he retired.
“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,” Bean said in a statement Thursday. “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.”
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