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Citing his religious upbringing, Detroit Tigers slugger Torii Hunter told the Los Angeles Times that having an openly homosexual teammate would be tough to deal with. And it would be a divisive issue for any Major League Baseball team.
Quoted by reporter Kevin Baxter of the Times in his Sunday story — "In pro sports, gay athletes still feel unwelcome" — Hunter indicated he would not — or could not — be supportive of a teammate with a different sexual orientation than his own:
... Hunter, among baseball's most thoughtful and intelligent players, isn't kidding when he says an "out" teammate could divide a team.
"For me, as a Christian … I will be uncomfortable because in all my teachings and all my learning, biblically, it's not right," he says. "It will be difficult and uncomfortable."
Update: Hunter says he was "misrepresented" by Baxter's story. Here's his full statement on Twitter:
I'm very disappointed in Kevin Baxter's article in which my quotes and feelings have been misrepresented. He took two completely separate quotes and made them into one quote that does not express how I feel as a Christian or a human being . I have love and respect for all human beings regardless of race, color or sexual orientation. I am not perfect and try hard to live the best life I can and treat all people with respect. If you know me you know that I am not anti anything and to be portrayed as anti-gay in this article is hurtful and just not true
Even after that amplification, Hunter still probably needs to realize a few things:
One, after playing nearly 2,000 major league games, Hunter probably has had at least one gay teammate already. Two, when has the sexual orientation of any teammate (assuming they've all been straight) mattered in how many games a team has won? Did the Tigers get to the World Series in 2012 because Justin Verlander is in a relationship with Kate Upton? How would it matter if Verlander dated someone named Bob Upton?
Three, using Christianity to hide behind bigotry is totally unfair to Christians who don't consider being gay "not right." And even a literal, so-called "fundamental" reading of the Bible requires some interpretation. People believe what they want to believe. Saying you don't like gays because you also say you're Christian just isn't good enough.
Hunter might be right about the issue being divisive. A major league clubhouse can very much be a boys club, overflowing with testosterone and full of jocular "humor" that might threaten a gay person. But ballplayers aren't dumb. As soon as they realize a gay teammate can hit a home run just like a straight one can, they'll ignore whatever details they might find disagreeable. They might even come to like or love the teammate. And if Hunter is as devoted to the Bible as he says, he might find reading material in there about that, too.