ATLANTA – Major League Baseball is investigating whether Toronto Blue Jays centre-fielder Kevin Pillar used a homophobic slur during a heated on-field exchange with Atlanta Braves reliever Jason Motte.
The incident occurred during the seventh inning of Wednesday’s 8-4 loss at SunTrust Park, when Motte threw a quick pitch for a strike three swinging, angering Pillar who looked out to the mound and uttered a few words.
Motte stopped, walked toward the plate and home plate umpire Brian O’Nora quickly intervened to separate the sides and calm things down.
Speaking about his reaction to the quick pitch post-game, Pillar said, "It was immature, it was stupid, it was uncalled for."
"(Quick pitches) are part of the game, it’s just, I’m a competitive guy and 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 homestand and really just not even being in any of these ball games, just coming out flat and not being able to build on what we were able to build (versus) Seattle. That just all came out in that moment."
Exactly how MLB will handle the incident if it’s deemed that Pillar did indeed use a slur is unclear.
A potential precedent came in 2012, when Yunel Escobar was suspended by the Blue Jays for three games after taking the field with a derogatory term for homosexuals inscribed on his eye-black patches.
That punishment was handed down in consultation with Major League Baseball and the players’ union and also included sensitivity training and participation in an outreach program for Escobar. The $93,000 in salary he forfeited was donated to You Can Play, an organization promoting tolerance for homosexuals in sports, and the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.
At the time, Major League Baseball hadn’t yet implemented the code of conduct introduced during the 2013 all-star break that protects players discrimination based on sexual orientation or race.
Baseball’s Rule 6.04 covers unsportsmanlike conduct and section (a)(2) states that no player shall "use language which will in any manner refer to or reflect upon opposing players, an umpire, or any spectator."
For wider context, last year the National Hockey League suspended forward Andrew Shaw, at the time of the Chicago Blackhawks, one game for using a homophobic slur in a game.
The NBA has fined several players for using homophobic slurs, including Kobe Bryant for $100,000 in 2011 after he directed one at an official.