Brandon Phillips of the Cincinnati Reds says his conflict with Pirates pitcher Jared Hughes is over. Phillips says each man has "forgiven" the other for what was said during an incident on the field Monday night, one in which Phillips said Hughes used racist language. In an NBC-TV interview on Tuesday, Phillips said he stands by his accusation that something racist was said, but he also says it's over and he's cool with Hughes.
Phillips hasn't told the public what the racist language was and it doesn't seem that he ever will. Deadspin reports that Phillips says he heard Hughes call him "boy." (For the uninformed and unenlightened, here's an example of why this is bad.)
With Phillips controlling the microphone on the situation to this point, Hughes felt compelled to weigh in on the situation on his own. To that end, Hughes has released a statement through the Pirates:
In response to Brandon Phillips' TV interview yesterday prior to the game, I feel compelled to once again make it perfectly clear that I did not make any comment with a racial undertone or connotation during our exchange on Monday night, period. While I cannot repeat everything that I said because I did swear, it is obvious when reviewing the tape that I in no way, shape or form made any remark that was in any way connected to race. It is not how I was raised and not who I am as a person.
That's not what Phillips said in the NBC interview. When asked point-blank if Hughes had said something racist, Phillips said "he did." Phillips didn't say he misunderstood Hughes, or was confused about what he heard. Phillips said he heard something racist. And, he added, that they talked it out afterward. Phillips implied — more than implied — that Hughes knew he had said something racist and was apologetic for it.
But Hughes just denied the whole thing.
So where does that leave us? Both players probably wish they could just bury the incident. But there's no place for racist taunting by major-league players, even though Phillips is within his right to forgive. Because, if Hughes was being racist against one black player, he was racist against all black players. And if Phillips is mistaken, or worse, with his initial tweet then he's doing irreparable damage to Hughes' reputation.
Phillips and Hughes might need to have at least one more conversation so that everyone can get their story straight. And commissioner Bud Selig should be part of it.
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