Thoughts on Thom

This is one of those blog posts where I don’t discuss a legal issue.  I have arbitrarily decided that I can do this every once in a while.

And my topic today is what to think about Fox Sports Ohio TV announcer Thom Brennaman. On Wednesday night, during a Reds Royals game, on a feed that went out to listeners on the MLB app, Thom used what the Reds referred to as a “horrific” gay slur.

I wasn’t watching when he said the word, but I was watching the second game of the double header when, in the fourth inning, Thom announced Jim Day would be picking up the play by play and Thom apologized for his actions.

I’ve never seen anything like it. And I have watched a lot sports in my life.

So what are we to think?  The Reds and Fox Sports have announced that they’ve suspended Thom indefinitely.  Whether this will result in his termination is unknown at this time.  Would that be excessive? I don’t think so.  If an organization is going to have a zero tolerance policy for bigotry, that suggests to me the consequences have to be genuinely severe.

I also don’t like the notion that this is some sort of mistake along the lines of using profanity on the air.  It’s not.  It sounds like Thom very casually used the term, not in a moment of anger or in some other state where his judgment was clouded.

In Thom’s apology, he said something to the effect that “this isn’t who he is.” But isn’t what we think and say exactly who we are?  Maybe during his suspension, Thom should think about that statement.  Perhaps he would be more honest with himself and the viewers if he acknowledged that his use of that term does reflect who he is, and that is what he needs to work on.  The solution isn’t to be more careful around hot mics, it’s to change his mindset.

In full disclosure, I should confess that I have never been a fan of Thom’s.  He seems determined to put on this “old school” persona when broadcasting games. So he mocks people who use social media. He is dismissive of advanced statistics. And his voice drips with contempt when a player fails to execute some small ball technique.  And I wonder if that determination to be Mr. Old School had something to do with this.  Does he think that using this kind of term is how old school tough guys talk?  If so, I hope he realizes how mistaken he is in that notion.

There is nothing “old school” about bigotry.  It is simply cruel.

WCPO’s Evan Milward wrote this incredibly thoughtful piece.  I hope Thom takes up Evan’s invitation to talk.  Perhaps if he hears firsthand the pain that word causes a gay man, he’ll grow from this.

And I hope they do it on air.  We could all benefit from that kind of exchange.