Blue Jays' Kevin Pillar apologizes for 'immature' and 'stupid' homophobic slur

By Alex Butler  |  May 18, 2017 at 4:27 PM
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May 18 (UPI) -- A strikeout wasn't the worst thing that came from Kevin Pillar's game Wednesday against the Atlanta Braves.

The Toronto Blue Jays centerfield apologized Thursday for using a homophobic slur in the contest.

Pillar lined up to face Braves reliever Jason Motte in the seventh inning, before striking out on three pitchers.

After the inning-ending fanning, he shouted a homophobic slur at the pitcher. Motte took exception to the insult, confronting the centerfielder at home plate. Both parties eventually walked away from the situation, at the suggestion of home plate umpire Brian O'Nora. Benches cleared briefly, but the game resumed.

After the contest, Pillar called the remark "immature" and "stupid."

"It was immature, it was stupid, it was uncalled for," Pillar said after the game, via USA Today. "It's part of the game, it's just, I'm a competitive guy and heat of the moment. Obviously I'm going to do whatever I've got to do to reach out and apologize and let him know he didn't do anything wrong, it was all me."

Pillar was 0-for-4 at the plate Wednesday. His altercation wasn't the only dust up of the game. Benches cleared again when Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista flipped his bat in the eighth inning following a home run.

"Last night, following my at-bat in the seventh inning, I used inappropriate language towards Braves pitcher Jason Motte," Pillar said in a statement Thursday. "By doing so I had just helped extend the use of a word that has no place in baseball, in sports or anywhere in society today. I'm completely and utterly embarrassed and feel horrible to have put the fans, my teammates and the Blue Jays organization in this position."

"I have apologized to Jason Motte, but also need to apologize to the Braves organization and their fans, and most importantly, to the LGBTQ community for the lack of respect I displayed last night. This is not who I am and will use this as opportunity to better myself."

This isn't the first time the Blue Jays have had to deal with a player making inappropriate and homophobic remarks. Toronto suspended shortstop Yunel Escobar for a trio of games in 2012 after he wrote homophobic slurs on his eye black. He eventually underwent sensitivity training and donated his three-game salary to a project called "You Can Play."

The "You Can Play" project "is dedicated to ensuring equality, respect and safety for all athletes, without regard to sexual orientation and/or gender identity," according to its official website. The project works to give athletes a fair opportunity to compete and are judged only by what they "contribute to the sport or their team's success."

The Blue Jays also released a statement on Pillar.

"The Toronto Blue Jays are extremely disappointed by the comments made by Kevin Pillar following his at-bat during the seventh inning of last night's game," the team said in the statement. "In no way is this kind of behavior accepted or tolerated, nor is it a reflection of the type of inclusive organization we strive to be. We would like to extend our apologies to all fans, Major League Baseball and especially the LGBQT community."

"We know Kevin to be a respectful high-character individual who we hope will learn from this situation and continue to positive contribute and live up to our values on and off the field."

Pillar, 28, is hitting a career-best .305 this season with six RBI and 12 home runs. The 2015 Wilson Defensive Player of the Year centerfielder made a catch-of-the-year nominee last week against the Cleveland Indians.

The Blue Jays (17-24) battle the Braves again at 7:35 p.m. Thursday at SunTrust Park.

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