The Kevin Pillar incident obviously needs addressing here, and I’m not going to lie to you, I’m not sure I’m in the right frame of mind to do right now that without somehow fucking it up *makes drinky-drinky motion*. But I also don’t want to be silent about it, because I think that would be a form of complicity. We can’t pretend that it’s not what it is: not only an offensive statement seemingly made by a Blue Jays player in uniform, but also the most talked-about Jays story of the moment, and one that demands both attention and some genuine thoughtfulness.
After Wendesday night’s game in Atlanta, Pillar was contrite about an incident in which he “exchanged words” with opposing pitcher Jason Motte. One of the words he exchanged was believed by many watching on TV to have been a homophobic slur, and the fact that Pillar made an apologetic statement to reporters following the game, and made clear he intends to apologize to Motte, appears to tacitly acknowledge that. I can’t say with total certainty if that’s the case, or what was said, but players exchange words on the field regularly without feeling the need to say things like this afterwards:
It was immature, it was stupid, it was uncalled for. It’s part of the game, it’s just, I’m a competitive guy and the heat of the moment. Obviously I’m going to do whatever I’ve got to do to reach out and apologize and let him know he didn’t do anything wrong, it was all me. Obviously something to learn from, something to move on from. Don’t let it define me but really I think it was just frustration from coming off a really good home stand and really just not even being in any of these ballgames.
The fact that he didn’t outright deny it almost certainly makes this an acknowledgement, but still… I don’t want say he said it and not be right. I also don’t want to seem like I’m trying to suggest he didn’t — nor do I want to make this post about going over the video like it’s the goddamn Zapruder film. It seems to me like he did say it, though I’ll acknowledge that knowing what was supposedly said probably makes it easier to see that word when you’re trying to read someone’s lips.
In other words: I have no expertise here, and I’m really trying not to be irresponsible in either direction.
Yet if the suggested slur was said, and if Pillar’s words after the game were meant to diffuse or address it, we have a bit of a problem. The things Pillar offered contrition for aren’t what was actually hurtful about what was said. In fact, what he did with those comments displayed a genuine failure to really comprehend the issue at all, which actually makes the whole thing worse.
This is all a bit tricky to write about, of course. Again, I’d hate it if all of what’s being whispered tonight is news to Pillar, who thought he was simply apologizing for an uncharacteristic outburst that caused the benches to clear (though if that turns out to be what he claims, I’m certainly not saying I’ll buy it — in fact, I’d probably call it a load of intelligence-insulting horseshit). But if Pillar said what seems to have been said, Motte isn’t who needs to be apologized to, dismissing it as “part of the game” is wholly unacceptable, and worrying about whether having said it defines Kevin Pillar is a long way from the issue anyone here should be most concerned about.
Assuming it was an acknowledgement, I suppose it’s nice that Kevin knew he did something wrong and had the good sense to understand he ought to do right by it — or at least had the good sense to listen to someone who told him as much. But with shit like this it’s really not enough to simply acknowledge that you know your behaviour is wrong. And by addressing it as vaguely as possible, Pillar didn’t really even manage to do that.
A dog can be taught to understand when its behaviour is wrong. For us humans it’s vital we understand the why, and there’s not a whole lot of that going on in Pillar’s statement.
Granted, coming to that kind of understanding isn’t necessarily the simplest place for a person to get. I’m sure we all know this, but when it comes to the way we talk and act, especially outside of polite circles, it’s sometimes is easier to just go with the flow. And in a lot of situations — especially, in my experience, among young dudes ignorant of and not particularly curious about how anybody else experiences the world, or even somewhat aware and yet still not self-assured enough to call their friends out for being assholes — the casual use of this kind of language can pretty easily become where that ends up.
That’s a thing we need to confront, and hopefully are confronting, but for now it’s still very much a part of a whole lot of our culture. And it’s precisely because it’s so easy for so many to go with the flow that my instinct is, on one hand, to have a bit of sympathy for someone like Pillar, who — despite really fucking needing to know better — has maybe never had to reckon with this stuff in his own mind very much, and certainly not quite so publicly.
The instinct on the other hand is to be vigilant about calling this bullshit out for what it is.
It is not difficult to not say demeaning, hurtful things about people who have to endure real life repercussions from those attitudes. Obviously. And anyone rushing now to moan about PC culture or “guys being guys” is simply too lazy or too dumb or too much of a coward to confront his or her (or, let’s be honest, his) own ability to empathize. Full stop, end of story.
That all said, I also understand that, on the other side, watching people like me end up talking about “teaching moments” or perhaps giving too much benefit of the doubt when these sorts of incidents happen must get incredibly frustrating as well. When will enough “teaching moments” be enough? I don’t want to be the person nudging the conversation in that direction, either. So… I can’t pretend to know that I have the right answers or things to say here. Have him apologize to the fans and the community he denigrated? Fine or suspend him? Sounds like a damn good start to me, because obviously baseball and the Blue Jays shouldn’t allow this kind of thing to be tolerated. Mostly, though, I felt I had to at least say something about it, even though, when you get down to it, the whole thing about this stuff is that we really need to be better at not actually saying anything at all and just fucking listening to each other.
This was something I thought was worth listening to:
2) The game I love ⚾️ is also a middle ground for ol' school fragile masculinity & new school attitudes around bravado and macho culture.— jeff perera (@jeffperera) May 18, 2017
3) Homophobia is as much a part of baseball culture as pine tar. Not to say #Pillar should get off the hook for his slur at all, in fact...— jeff perera (@jeffperera) May 18, 2017
5) Pillar: "something to move on from, don't let it define me" When men r called on our behaviour, how we react IS what defines us #BlueJays— jeff perera (@jeffperera) May 18, 2017
6) When you are made aware that something you said or did has hurt or harmed someone: how you respond and show up will define you. #Pillar— jeff perera (@jeffperera) May 18, 2017
7) Hopefully there won't be just some 'move on' PR, but a moment where the @BlueJays finally & openly show support for LGBTQ2S folks & fans.— jeff perera (@jeffperera) May 18, 2017