Thom Brennaman's Homophobic Slur

And horrible apology.

Jim Rome
August 20, 2020 - 10:13 am
Thom Brennaman

USA Today


The other day I talked, at length, about how 2020 has been the year of the hot mic: and that if you have spent even an hour working in this business you know every mic is a hot mic. You have to assume that, you have to know that. Especially if you’re in this business. You may think that mic isn’t turned on, isn’t live, isn’t hot, but you never know: so just assume every single mic is hot. And then you don’t get burned. And no sooner than I laid that out, in great no detail no less, someone gets scorched by another hot mic.

Reds broadcaster Thom Brennaman had a hot mic moment yesterday. Sometimes hot mic moments are funny, sometimes they are embarrassing. But what he had yesterday was awful. Truly horrible.

If you don’t know what he said, you’re going to have to go look it up. 

I’m not going to play it here because it’s not funny, it’s not entertaining, and it’s not interesting. Its hate and bile. It’s reprehensible and disgraceful. It is a slur that is deeply hurtful and its purpose is to be deeply hurtful. 

And honestly, I’m not sure what’s worse, the fact that he said it or the fact that he was so casual about saying it. 

So I’m not going to play that and honestly, initially I wasn’t going to talk about it today. There is no “I told you so” moment here because what was said on that mic was so reprehensible and disgraceful. There is no taking a victory lap for predicting something like this, because I never thought it would be as terrible as it was. My initial thought was to just ignore it and keep moving.

And then came his apology. Except it wasn’t an apology. It was just a string of words with a home run call in the middle of it. And that I will play, because it is pretty much exhibit a for how you do not handle an apology.

I’ve watched and listened to that about a dozen times and I still can’t believe it. It is a how-to manual for how to create a bad apology and make a situation worse. He is attempting something like an apology for using a reprehensible slur on the air and stops to call a home run.

“I think of myself as a man of faith. There’s a drive into deep left field by castellanos, it will be a home run. That will make it a 4-0 ballgame. I don’t know if I’ll be putting on this headset again. I don’t know if it’s gonna be for the reds, I don’t know if it’s gonna be for my bosses at fox.” 

The hell was that? Dude, you are supposed to be apologizing for, and owning, the comment that you made. Who gives a crap about the home run? You’re not telling a story and spinning a yarn that needs to be interrupted for a home run call. You’re apologizing for a slur, or at least that’s what you were supposed to be doing. 

And you interrupt that with a scoring update?

You might as well say, that ball is leaving the stadium and so am I. The runner is heading home and so am I. The royals might want to get a reliever and I’m going to need a reliever too. 

I want to apologize for – 2-2 pitch on the outside, full count, the pitcher is really working himself into a jam here – anyway, what I was saying was…

And how about the fact that he goes from saying that he thinks of himself as a man of faith, to calling the home run, and then coming back and saying “I don’t know if I’ll be putting on this headset again. I don’t know if it’s gonna be for the reds, I don’t know if it’s gonna be for my bosses at FOX.” 

Uh, buddy, that’s not the point right now. That’s not the most important thing in that moment. You’re supposed to be apologizing for what you said, not begging for a job. 

And then look at the actual apology itself: “I apologize to the people who sign my paycheck, to the Reds, Fox Sports Ohio, the people I work with, anybody that I’ve offended here tonight — I can’t begin to tell you how deeply sorry I am.” 

I don’t want to be throwing on a badge and enlisting in the apology police, but you have to do better than that. I know it was a really, really tough moment and he was probably speaking off the top of his head, but the apology should be to the LGBT community, not to “the people who sign my paycheck.” 

Instead, he lists the people who signed his paycheck, the Reds, Fox Sports Ohio, the people I work with, and then finally he gets to “anybody that I’ve offended here tonight”

And I’m still not exactly sure who he’s apologizing to or what he’s apologizing for. I think he’s sorry, but I’m not sure what he’s sorry for. He seems to be sorry that he’s in this spot. He seems to be sorry about how this might impact him, but not sorry for how it impacted other people. 

And then he follows up that sequence with: “that is not who I am, and it never has been.”

Uh, correct me if I’m wrong, but you’re apologizing for something you did earlier that day. Like an hour or two earlier. This isn’t some ancient artifact that was dug up and now you have to own it and explain it. You said this the very same day. 

I wouldn’t blame someone for thinking that’s exactly who you are. Or at least it was a few minutes earlier. 

We all have bad moments and do or say things that hurt people. And in those moments, it’s important to own what you did, ask for forgiveness, and then earn that forgiveness. 

You can’t throw out a word salad with a home run call and apologize to your bosses and call it a day. 

Later, Brennaman spoke to the athletic and was asked if he had anything specifically to say to LGBT people. Here’s his answer: 

“I have never in my life, not for one second of my life, have I been homophobic, have I been racist, have I been any of those words that are terrible, terrible words. And I would stand next to any LGBT person in the world, and lock arm-in-arm with them that they have all the same rights as every other person born on god’s green earth.”

Dude, you used a homophobic slur yesterday. So for at least one second of your life, you were definitely dabbling in homophobia. Unless the whole world is missing the context for his slur, that comment is completely and utterly absurd.  

Compared that butchered quasi-apology with this tweet from Reds pitcher Amir Garrett: to the LGBT community just know I am with you, and whoever is against you, is against me. I’m sorry for what was said today.

Or this one from reliever Matt Bowman: LGBT + community, as a member of the reds organization, I am so sorry for the way you were marginalized tonight. There will always be a place for you in the baseball community and we are so happy to have you here.

Their apologies were so much better than Brennaman’s and they weren’t even the ones at fault.