|Tigers outfielder Torii Hunter recently addressed a controversial subject. (Getty Images)|
Kevin Baxter of the Los Angeles Times has written an insightful piece on the life of the gay athlete in professional sports. As part of his reporting, Baxter sought out comments from a number of straight athletes on the subject, and here's how he summarized his conversation with veteran Tigers outfielder Torii Hunter:
Like in the New England Patriots' locker room. Earlier this season linebacker Brandon Spikes sent out a tweet claiming to be homophobic "just like I'm arachnophobic. I have nothing against homosexuals or spiders but I'd still scream if I found one in my bathtub."
Spikes later said he was joking. But former Angels outfielder Torii Hunter, among baseball's most thoughtful and intelligent players, isn't kidding when he says an "out" teammate could divide a team.
"For me, as a Christian … I will be uncomfortable because in all my teachings and all my learning, biblically, it's not right," he says. "It will be difficult and uncomfortable."
Hunter is of course entitled to his personal beliefs (although one wonders whether he is similarly affronted by, say, shellfish and neatly maintained beards, which are also forbidden by the holiness code of Leviticus), and when he talks about potential problems within the clubhouse, he may well be correct.
On the other hand, if straight ballplayers allow themselves to be sundered by the mere presence of an openly gay teammate, then that says more about their shortcomings than it does about the audacity of the gay teammate to, you know, be himself.