Last month, longtime sportscaster Thom Brennaman surprised Cincinnati Reds fans when he was caught on a hot mic using a gay slur.
Coming out of a commercial break during the first game of a doubleheader between the Reds and Kansas City Royals on August 19, the play-by-play announcer was heard saying, “One of the f*g capitals of the world.”
Social media lit up about the remark seemingly without Brennaman’s knowledge until two hours later when he addressed the debacle with an awkward apology, pausing mid mea culpa to call a home run. After his statement, he was replaced at the mic.
Thom Brennamann likely ends his Reds career tonight LIVE on the air pic.twitter.com/EDzSICgVmx
— Matt Jones (@KySportsRadio) August 19, 2020
Thom’s apology pic.twitter.com/uyzrQ27sxj
— Joe Kinsey (@JoeKinseyexp) August 20, 2020
The 56-year-old expressed his remorse again in a lengthy letter the next day to the editor of the Cincinnati Enquirerwriting, “I hope the LGBTQ+ community, the Reds and their fans and the people of Cincinnati can find a way to think better of me.”
“With all the humility I can muster, I ask for your forgiveness.”
Brennaman has been indefinitely suspended by the Reds since then and last week was removed from Fox Sports’ NFL schedule – a gig he’s has since 1994.
In the past weeks, he’s been on an apology tour of sorts reaching out to LGBTQ groups which, he tells the New York Post, have been forgiving.
Addressing the incident and its fallout with the Post, Brennaman says he doesn’t even remember the context of his remark.
“Everything happened so fast,” he told the Post. “And I’m watching literally everything fall apart at the seams while trying to announce a baseball game.”
“I couldn’t even tell you what happened, where it came from. … Look, I said it is all that matters. The rest of it is irrelevant. I said it. And I own it. And I’m the one who has to live with it.”
The veteran sportscaster added emphatically, “I have never used that word (before) in my life.”
While some are willing to forgive and allow space for some sense of redemption, believing Brennaman had ‘never used that word’ is a bit of a stretch for a few folks.
Ryan Messer, a leading LGBTQ activist in Cincinnati that Brennaman has reached out to, says “If he used it then, he used it before.”
He adds, however, “if we don’t open the dialogue to help explain (the meaning behind the word), how do we learn and grow from it? And that’s where my whole perspective comes, and I’m willing to make sure he understands that, which is why he is coming to my house Saturday to meet my family, my husband, and four kids.”
Messer has publicly called on the Reds to reinstate Brennaman.
“Cincinnati wasn’t always the most welcoming city (for LBGT people),” says Messer, who helped lead an effort to repeal an anti-LGBTQ ordinance in the early 2000s. “I believe I can tell when someone is sincere and I heard that in (Brennaman’s) voice.”
Brennaman also sat down with local gay newscaster Evan Millward, who believes “We should forgive, and we largely have forgiven.”
“But you can’t just then sweep it under the rug and then place it into this whole societal cancel-culture thing,” Millward told the Post. “If we just shut people down, and tell them they’re trash and that they’re canceled, then we’re avoiding a difficult dialogue.”
For his part, Brennaman told the Post, “If I get another chance, someone will be hiring a better person than the person who walked out the door that night on August 19.”
What do you think, readers? Should it be one strike and you’re out? Or is there space to allow for redemption?