Blue Jays Act Swiftly To Control PR Damage

blue Jays Toronto
By PAT PARK  May 19, 2017 

Blue Jays Act Swiftly To Control PR Damage

To say the first quarter of the Blue Jays’ season has been a bitter disappointment would be an understatement. Picked by many baseball pundits in Spring Training to contend for the American League East title – along with the Red Sox and Orioles – the Blue Jays have had to overcome a string of major hurdles of the uncontrolled variety. The latest one, emanating out of Atlanta, doesn’t fall into that category. A fan favourite; the man hyped as “Superman”, now finds himself in the role of the villain.


Why? Outfielder Kevin Pillar lost his cool for a fleeting moment and just snapped.


Mired in last place, and well on their way to a third straight loss to the lowly Atlanta Braves, Pillar has been the ballclub’s top performer to this point in 2017.  The centre-fielder lost his composure after striking out on what he felt was a “quick pitch” from Atlanta’s Jason Motte. Pillar shouted a homophobic slur at the hurler and the weakest of lip-readers had no difficulty catching Pillar’s “drift”.


A little background. It’s not the first time that Pillar has “flown off the handle” during the course of the game. Blue Jays watchers at the Rogers Centre and TV viewers at home will recall a dugout tantrum when manager John Gibbons elected to go with a pinch-hitter late in a ballgame a few years ago. The penalty? A demotion to the minor leagues the next morning. It should also be pointed out that it’s customary for league representatives in all professional sports to carry out a mandated Diversity Awareness session annually with their league’s respective teams. A session usually held in training camp before the bright lights come on and the games begin to count in the standings. 


Who knows why one of the major sensitive talking points of session fell on deaf ears of the five-year MLB pro, Pillar. He comes across as the ultra-competitor but he should have known that the slur is not acceptable inside and outside the white lines of the baseball diamond.


Pillar clearly still has some growing up to do and, to his credit, he came across as contrite and sincere during his public apology. We’ll take him at his word that he intends to turn this into positive initiatives moving forward.


Let’s give the Toronto Blue Jays organization some praise though. Chalk it up to past experience perhaps. After all, it was just only five years ago that infielder Yunel Escobar found himself mired in a similar public mess related to homophobia while wearing the uniform of the Blue Jays. For those wondering, Escobar was eventually sent packing and he is now on his third team after life as a Blue Jay. Here’s why the Blue Jays deserve plaudits in the messy matter. As an organization, the team values three pillars. One, they pride themselves on respecting all communities. A core value that Pillar didn’t live up to in Atlanta. Secondly, the team realizes and recognizes that they have a highly-visible platform to promote inclusiveness within their wide fan base. Finally, the organization pledges to be accountable while making every effort to proactively work with Major League Baseball on diversity programs. Suspending Pillar for two games was also a commendable move. It was a front-facing action that was handled swiftly.


Let’s hope that Pillar will soon begin to mature as a role model at the same rate as his breakout performance in a Toronto uniform thus far in 2017. It would be a shame to see these transgressions derail a career on the dramatic upswing on the playing field.


His competitive fire, which has led to the heat-of-the-moment missteps, can’t become his Kryptonite. Society in 2017 and baseball won’t let him get away with it.


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