CINCINNATI — LGBTQ community leaders said the Thom Brennaman situation puts the spotlight on a long history of homophobia in sports and sports culture.
They want to expand the conversation beyond the broadcast booth. They want to push Brennaman, the Reds and the City of Cincinnati to make sports and our community a more inclusive place.
Tim’m West, co-founder of Cincinnati Black Pride, said it hurt to hear Brennaman use a homophobic slur while calling Wednesday’s games for his beloved Reds.
“I’m kind of a die-hard everything Bengals, Reds. Born in Cincinnati,” West said, “so I think hearing that statement was kind of a turn back to a time when a lot of people didn’t feel welcome here.”
West said he moved back to Cincinnati in 2017 after visiting and feeling finally welcome and celebrated as a queer black man. But Wednesday’s telecast showed West there’s still a lot of work to be done - especially in sports, where he said he often heard homophobic slurs as an athlete.
“I think it just means we have a long way to go in sports to get to a place where that is seen as reprehensible, as something that’s shameful,” West said.
Several in the LGBTQ community said Brennaman's slur paints a bad picture of Cincinnati for the entire country and makes the city look like an unwelcome place, which is an image people have been working for years to try to improve.
“I think there’s a, unfortunately, long history of homophobia in sports and this seems to reinforce that there’s a long way to go,” said Shawn Jeffers, lead trainer for GLSEN Greater Cincinnati.
The Reds suspended Brennaman and issued a statement apologizing to anyone offended, saying in part they are “devastated by the horrific, homophobic remark” and explaining the team has a zero-tolerance policy for bias or discrimination.
LGBTQ representatives want to see Brennaman and the team take meaningful steps to learn from this and promote inclusion.
“To be that forefront to combat this and combat these issues and understand that we can grow and heal from it,” said Nicolas Munoz, owner and founder of Pride and Power Health Spa LLC.
“We need to move beyond statements and we need to make concrete actions," Jeffers said.
“It’s not about villainizing people and it’s not about even victimizing people. It’s about empowering people," said Allen. "Empowering both sides. Empowering leaders in the community to stand up and do the right thing. It’s about empowering individuals to stand up and learn and grow.”