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A former minor-league pitcher for the Missouri-based St. Louis Cardinals says he quit baseball because of the homophobia he encountered in the sport. The Cardinals have responded to the allegations by saying they are treating them ‘very seriously’ and have reached out tot he pitcher for more information.
In an email, in which he shares his experiences with outsports.com, Tyler Dunnington explained that he hadn’t come out at the time he left in 2014, but that he witnessed a number of homophobic discussions while at the club.
‘I was also one of the unfortunate closeted gay athletes who experienced years of homophobia in the sport I loved,’ he writes.
‘I was able to take most of it with a grain of salt but towards the end of my career I could tell it was affecting my relationships with people, my performance, and my overall happiness.’
When with his minor-league team, Dunnington said he was present when teammates discussed killing LGBT people. Dunnington said ‘each comment felt like a knife to my heart’.
In the report, an unnamed college coach allegedly referenced the 1998 torture and eventual murder of gay teen Matthew Shepard in a homophobic attack. The coach allegedly said, ‘We kill gay people in Wyoming.’
‘I was miserable in a sport that used to give me life, and ultimately I decided I needed to hang up my cleats for my own sanity.’
‘[T]wo teammates in particular questioned their straight teammate on how he could possibly be friends with a gay person, even his brother,’ he said. ‘They even mentioned ways to kill gay people.’
In a response on behalf of the club, general manager John Mozeliak said, ‘This is very disappointing and our hope is that every player, staff member, and employee feels they are treated equally and fairly.’
‘Given the nature of these allegations I will certainly look into this further as well as speak with Billy Bean of the Commissioner’s Office for further assistance on this matter … we will take this very seriously.’
The Major League Baseball’s official ambassador for inclusion, Billy Bean, visited the Cardinals’ spring training complex and spoke at length about inclusion in the sport.
‘For the last two years I’ve been in this role, every organization has been completely supportive of the big picture — to help educate players, and especially to do so with young players, the players at the lower levels. I wish that Tyler could have reached out to me, that he knew of a way to reach out to me at the time. I’m 100 percent certain that these type of situations described are not going to happen as we make strides,’ said Bean.
‘There’s a little bit of nerves there,’ added Dunnington. ‘I feel like most of the people I played with, definitely the majority, would be accepting, welcoming to me being gay. In the back of my mind there is always that feeling where there won’t be people so accepting.’
Dunnington spent most of his career with the Cardinals but left the organisation after the 2014 season. On speaking out about his experiences, he said, ‘I not only wanted to share my story but also apologize for not using the stage I had to help change the game. Quitting isn’t the way to handle adversity, and I admire the other athletes acting as trailblazers.’