Last week, gay umpire Billy Van Raaphorst showed up at a minor league baseball game ready to do his job. Little did he know that he was about to be subject to insults and slurs because of his sexuality.

Brent Bowers, manager of the Edmonton Capitals, exploded on Van Raaphorst. According to Raaphorst, Bowers said: “You know what I heard? I heard you are a (expletive) faggot. The rumour from several managers and people at the league is that you are a fag … I ought to kick your ass, you faggot.”

Bowers was suspended by the Golden Baseball League for the remainder of the season and fined $5,000. Following his suspension, Bowers resigned from his position.

Turns out that Bowers’ homophobic tirade was not only hateful and threatening but also a violation of his responsibilities as manager of the Capitals. According to Golden Baseball League commissioner Kevin Outcalt, “The daily contribution made by umpires to our league and the fans is extremely valuable and they must be respected.”

Umpires are often subject to frustration from team managers who disagree with their calls. This incident, though, is not a case of typical umpire anger, like when a ball is called a strike, or your team’s runner is called out when he is clearly safe. Bowers’ outburst is downright hate speech.

And that’s how other umpires in the league saw the incident. Indeed, they were so upset by Bowers’ tirade that they considered withdrawing their services if the issue wasn’t dealt with appropriately.

The whole incident sends the message that people will face consequences for homophobic actions on the field. And that’s a message that, hopefully, will make LGBT players (not to mention umpires) feel more comfortable coming out of the closet.

Photo credit: Mike Babcock

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