OPINION: Brennaman Not in a Judgement-Free Zone
While I know that just as the sun will rise tomorrow, the public shaming monster will have found a new victim by the time this column publishes, I want to pause on a story from last week.
Cincinnati Reds broadcaster Thom Brennaman took the heat off the players in the Fernando Tatis unwritten rules debate by violating the biggest unwritten rule in broadcasting: the mic is always hot. His use of a homophobic slur during a pregame broadcast was abhorrent, and his attempt at an apology while trying to simultaneously call a home run during the broadcast rang hollow.
I don’t know Brennaman or what’s in his heart, and likewise I know even I can be more sensitive in the language I use so as not to be offensive to members of the LGBTQ+ community in particular. However, what felt most unacceptable in the apology in my mind other than the cliché “sorry to anyone who was offended,” was the use of “I pride myself and think of myself as a man of faith.”
As a fellow “man of faith,” I take issue with the relevancy of this assertion in this apology. It almost feels like a dog whistle to other Christians to come to his defense in a sort of “we’re all sinners so who’s to judge,” kind of way. Side note: the real irony of Brennaman’s home run call/apology is the ball sails by a sign reading “Judgement-free zone” as he’s speaking. What frustrates me about this however is how low Brennaman is setting the bar for “people of faith.”
And while we may not have the authority reserved for his creator to judge his soul, uttering such a slur with such mocking contempt as he did is not excusable or dismissible to any decent employer. The confidence with which he could say something like that in the workplace should also be a red flag, pun unintended, of the culture at Fox Sports Ohio. Interviews should be conducted with each member of the production crew to determine if others contribute to the environment Brennaman revealed with his comment.
Just after finishing his home run call, he went on to seemingly lament that he may never put on the broadcasting headset again, showing greater remorse over his own consequences than those he may have offended. Shortly thereafter, Fox Sports suspended Brennaman from Reds and National Football League broadcasts, as they should have.
None of us are perfect, and should thus not be held to that standard. However, Brennaman’s case goes beyond a lack of perfection towards willful ignorance, for which his employer and the general public have every right to hold him to account.