Cincinnati Reds broadcaster Thom Brennaman shocked viewers of the Kansas City Royals-Cincinnati Reds baseball game Wednesday night, August 19, when he used a gay slur on-air before the pregame show started.
The “hot mic” incident took place during a live feed, and since then the baseball team has apologized and many of its members have also put out tweets in support of the LGBTQ+ community.
To the LGBTQ community just know I am with you, and whoever is against you, is against me. I’m sorry for what was said today.
— CountOnAG (@Amir_Garrett) August 20, 2020
Brennaman apologized during the game and signed off, telling viewers and listeners, “I don’t know if I’m going to be putting on this headset again.”
Brennaman Was Live Before He Realized It
In the video clip, Brennaman can be heard saying, “One of the f** capitols of the world” in a conversational tone before declaring in a more professional tone, “Reds live, the pregame show presented by Ray St. Clair Roofing.”
It is unclear who, if anyone, he is speaking to.
Later on, Brennaman realized his offensive language had been on-air. He apologized to viewers, and his apology was briefly interrupted by a home run that put the Reds up 4-0 before he wrapped it up and handed off the game to another broadcaster.
I made a comment earlier tonight that, uh, I guess, uh, went out over the air that I am deeply ashamed of. Uh, if I have hurt anyone out there, I can’t tell you how much I say from the bottom of my heart, I am very, very sorry. I pride myself and think of myself as a man of faith. … I don’t know if I’m going to be putting on this headset again. I don’t know if it’s going to be the Reds, I don’t know if it’s going to be for my bosses at Fox. I want to apologize for the people who sign my paycheck, for the Reds, for Fox Sports Ohio, for the people I work with – for anybody that I’ve offended here tonight. I can’t begin to tell you how deeply sorry I am, that is not who I am and it never has been. And I like to think that maybe I could have some people who can back that up. I am very, very sorry and I beg for your forgiveness. Jim Day will take you the rest of the way home.
The Cincinnati Reds released a statement on Brennaman late Wednesday night, noting that it “embraces a zero-tolerance policy for bias or discrimination of any kind.”
— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) August 20, 2020
Fox Sports Ohio also released a statement in which it said, “The language that Thom Brennaman used this evening is hateful, offensive, and in no way reflects the values of FOX Sports Ohio. We agree with the @Reds decision to suspend him until further notice.”
#FireThom Trended as Fans Reacted to the Slur & Brennaman’s Apology
— ESPN Radio (@ESPNRadio) August 20, 2020
The majority of fans who took to Twitter were not happy with Brennaman’s words or his apology.
“Based on your hateful tone, this was not the first time you used a gay slur, Thom Brennaman. It’s the first time you got caught,” one person tweeted.
“’…f** capital of the world’ Thom Brennaman took time to justify who he is by using his faith as a crutch. He didn’t apologize to the LGBTQIA+ community, he apologized to his employers. F*** you and your faith,” another wrote, as others questioning the sincerity of Brennaman’s apology also noted that he apologized to his bosses first and never directly to the LGBTQ+ community.
Others pointed out that since Brennaman “talk(s) for a living,” he should have known better:
I love when people get caught saying something dumb and trot out, “That’s not who I am.”
You talk for a living. These are the words that you chose to say, and I’ll venture a guess that it wasn’t the first time—just the first hot mic: https://t.co/Z6dcuayqRw
— Brian Tinsman (@Brian_Tinsman) August 20, 2020
TV reporter Lisa Guerrero tweeted that Brennaman’s are not unusual in sports, writing, “I worked in pro sports for 20 years. The language #ThomBrennaman used (& that specific word) was typical of what I heard almost every single day. HOMOPHOBIA IS A CORNERSTONE OF SPORTS: From the field to the front office to the press box to the owner’s suite to the cheap seats.”
DETROIT _ Any time someone begins an apology with "If I offended anyone…" they are not apologizing.
— Rochelle Riley (@rochelleriley) August 20, 2020
Others found humor in Brennaman’s brief pause to mention the home run scored by Cincinnati, with one person tweeting, “Thom Brenneman calling a home run in the middle of apologizing for saying a slur on a broadcast AND THE HOMERUN WENT INTO A JUDGMENT FREE ZONE. cant make this up.”
Dan Katz, a podcast host and reporter for Barstool Sports, wrote, “Seriously, Thom Brennaman calling a Home Run in the middle of a career altering apology is unintentionally the funniest video of 2020.”
Seriously, Thom Brennaman calling a Home Run in the middle of a career altering apology is unintentionally the funniest video of 2020 pic.twitter.com/OsCoaWdoHA
— Big Cat (@BarstoolBigCat) August 20, 2020
Some on Twitter came to Brennaman’s defense, arguing that his career should not end over what he said. Former Diamondbacks pitcher Curt Schilling, who has his own history of making controversial comments, wrote, “In today’s cancel culture, I am expecting an insane overreaction to this mistake. I can tell you that Thom Brennaman is one of the nicest and most thoughtful men I have known. His father is the very same.”
In today's cancel culture I am expecting an insane overreaction to this mistake. I can tell you that Thom Brennaman is one of the nicest and most thoughtful men I have known. His father is the very same.
— Curt Schilling (@gehrig38) August 20, 2020
One person who identified as a member of the LGTBQ+ community said Brennaman should be given another chance, writing, “I’m LGBTQ+… what he said wasn’t a slur, it was crude boy’s locker room talk. I’m not offended by it, I’m offended that ya’ll are acting like it was the other ‘f word’ he said or something. D: Baseball by rules shouldn’t be zero-tolerance. It’s 3 strikes. Give the man a chance.”
However, even some of those who said they sympathized with Brennaman also said they didn’t believe his apology was sincere. One Twitter user wrote in part, “I sympathize with Thom Brennaman but this is bulls*** – pure and simple. If you’re not a person who uses a word like that then: Why did you use it?”
I sympathize with Thom Brennaman but this is bullshit – pure and simple.
If you're not a person who uses a word like that then:
Why did you use it?
(bc he's comfortable using it)
Was it the first time?
Does it represent your feelings towards homosexuals?
— Michael Strawn (@LifeInCharts) August 20, 2020
Brennaman Has Called His Words ‘a Mistake’
Thom Brennaman apologized for his on-air anti-gay remark on Wednesday, but even he admits that might not be enough. @ctrent talked to the now suspended broadcaster as well as an LGBTQ #Reds fan who's done with the team until he's gone. https://t.co/576geJ4fEn
— The Athletic Cincinnati (@TheAthleticCIN) August 20, 2020
In an interview with The Athletic, Brennaman said, “I don’t know where, at this point, that I could go besides just continuing to express my regret and my sorrow for what I said.” He also replied to a reported who asked if he understood the offensive nature of what he said. “Of course,” he said, adding:
I’m not that person. That’s not who Thom Brennaman is. And I know there are a lot of people out there that might roll their eyes, feel that the guy said it, that’s gotta be who he is. And for those people, I’m not sure there’s anything else I can say besides I’m just so very, very sorry.
Based on Twitter’s reaction, many fans are rolling their eyes, with one person tweeting, “Anyone who as relaxed & as far as they are aware, without an audience, issues words & slurs like these, have deep rooted beliefs. An apology doesn’t plaster over what you said, Thom Brennaman, @FOXSports, it’s not sincere & it wasn’t made to the LGBT+ community. #FireThom.”
However, Brennaman maintained that his words were a “mistake,” not a reflection of who he is as a person: “I made a mistake. And I’m the one that has to own it. And I would do anything in the world to take it back,” he said, according to The Athletic.
According to The Athletic, this is the 56-year-old’s 14th year calling games for the Cincinnati Reds and the damage done to his legacy extends beyond him; Brennaman is a second-generation baseball announcer, having followed in the footsteps of his famous father, Cincinnati Reds announcer Marty Brennaman.