Matt Joyce of the Oakland Athletics reportedly used a homophobic slur while shouting at an Angels fan Friday night, according to an Associated Press photographer who overheard the exchange.
The exchange with the fan happened immediately after this play, when Angels first-baseman C.J. Cron laid out to rob Joyce of a hit:
From the ESPN report:
As Joyce returned to the dugout, he uttered several profanities at the fan, called him an anti-gay slur and challenged him to fight, according to AP photographer Mark J. Terrill, who overheard the exchange. Terrill said he did not hear the first part of the exchange.
After the game, Joyce was asked about the exchange with the fan. He didn’t address the use of the slur directly, but explained the sequence as he remembered it:
“It’s just one of those things that fans kind of get into the game. Obviously, we’re pretty frustrated on our side, and I had just hit a ball hard and had Cron make a good play,” Joyce said after the game. “I was walking back to the dugout and just had a fan yell some vulgar and obscene words. For me, it just wasn’t the right time to say some stuff like that. I fired back, and obviously as soon as you fire back, you regret saying anything, because it’s just not worth it.”
You will remember, back in May Blue Jays outfielder Kevin Pillar was investigated by MLB and ultimately suspended for two games and fined after he hurled a homophobic slur at Braves pitcher Jason Motte during a game. You’d have to imagine a similar suspension will be handed down here, especially given that the exchange was with a fan and was overheard by a member of the press.
It’s disheartening that this particular type of slur is still near the top of the grab bag of insults for professional athletes in 2017, but not particularly surprising. The NHL and NBA have also disciplined players in recent years for use of homophobic slurs, and a whole goddamn arena of soccer fans chanted a homophobic slur in unison (albeit in Spanish) at an MLS game in Atlanta in March. It’s a reminder that, for all the celebrating that happens when a current or former athlete publicly comes out, the world of American professional sports is still not a particularly friendly place for homosexual athletes.