Torii Hunter calls for unity during Twins Hall of Fame speech

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Torii Hunter was inducted into the Minnesota Twins Hall of Fame on Saturday. (AP)
Torii Hunter was inducted into the Minnesota Twins Hall of Fame on Saturday. (AP)

Former major leaguer Torii Hunter is pleading for unity and togetherness amid divisive times in the United States.

The longtime Minnesota Twins outfielder addressed fans during his acceptance speech into the team’s Hall of Fame on Saturday. His speech was mostly light-hearted and entirely appreciative of his time with the Twins, but he closed with a serious plea for unity following two recent police shootings that have divided the country on many critical fronts.

“This is the United States of America,” Hunter said. “The word united means togetherness. United we stand, divided we fall. A house divided cannot stand.”

One of those shootings happened not far from Target Field. Philando Castile was shot and killed by a police officer in the St. Paul suburb of Falcon Heights during a seemingly routine traffic stop on July 6. One day earlier, Alton Sterling was shot and killed by police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Those two incidents have led to many peaceful protests and true moments of understanding and unity, but they’ve also fueled intense debate and intense anger that has manifested itself in negative ways.

Hunter says positive change can’t happen until each individual is willing to change their perspective and accept those around them for who they are.

“We have to take action and we have to make change,” Hunter said. “But before we make change in our country, we have to change ourselves and our hearts.”

“We must love the one next to us no matter the color of someone’s skin, gender, views or religious preferences,” he continued.

Hunter’s speech was passionate and seemingly well-intended. However, there’s always a question about whether he’s truly practicing what he preaches.

In 2012, Hunter was roundly and rightfully criticized for saying that having an openly gay teammate would be “difficult and uncomfortable.” Those words don’t match the attitude reflected in Hunter’s speech on Saturday, but it’s possible he’s made those changes within himself that allow him to see and accept everyone equally.

Only Hunter knows for sure how he truly feels, but his words still represent a message that should be taken seriously.

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!