US baseball commentator suspended for anti-gay slur on air

A pitcher holds a ball between drills during a workout before a spring training baseball game in Sarasota, Florida in 2013. [Reuters]

A veteran U.S. baseball commentator has been suspended from his job as the voice of the Cincinnati Reds after making a "horrific, homophobic remark" on air, in the latest anti-gay slur to mar the world of sport.

Thom Brennaman, who has covered major league games for 33 years, used the term "fag capital" during a game on Wednesday night, prompting a backlash on social media and swift apologies from the team, top players and the broadcaster.

"I made a comment earlier tonight, that I guess went out over the air, that I am deeply ashamed of," Brennaman said on the show, which was aired by Fox Sports Ohio.

"If I have hurt anyone out there, I can't tell you how much I say from the bottom of my heart that I am very, very sorry," he said. "I don't know if I'm going to be putting on this headset again."

The comment prompted online criticism as well as apologies.

"To the LGBTQ community just know I am with you, and whoever is against you, is against me," said Reds pitcher Amir Garrett on Twitter.

"There will always be a place for you in the baseball community and we are so happy to have you here," said fellow pitcher Matt Bowman.

Homophobia in sport stretches from the soccer pitch to the swimming pool, with a fear of abuse, bullying, loss of income and assault prompting many stars to hide their sexuality.

Initiatives from rainbow laces in England to gay championships in Australia have tried to tackle the issue, but anti-gay sentiments remain widespread.

British middleweight boxer James Hawley was sacked after posting homophobic and transphobic comments online last month, while Irish lightweight Conor McGregor was captured on video in 2017 using a homophobic slur.

Last year, Australian rugby union star Israel Folau was sacked by Rugby Australia after saying on social media that "hell awaits" gay people; he was then hired by Catalans Dragons.

The Reds said on Wednesday that the 56-year-old commentator had been suspended "effective immediately".

"The Cincinnati Reds organization is devastated by the horrific, homophobic remark made this evening by broadcaster Thom Brennaman," the team said in a statement.

"We share our sincerest apologies to the LGBTQ+ community in Cincinnati, Kansas City, all across this country, and beyond."

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