The Toronto Blue Jays can't employ Anthony Bass, the middle reliever, and avoid reckoning with Anthony Bass, the man.
When Bass shared a video to his Instagram story that strongly endorsed boycotting Target due to the company's pro-LGBTQ2S+ initiatives, he took the step from controversy into bigotry. As long as he's wearing a Blue Jays uniform, that's a stain the club can't scrub out.
In the Blue Jays' initial statement about the situation, the team said, "Individual player sentiments are not representative of the club's beliefs." To some degree, that's understandable. You can't expect an organization with hundreds of employees to share one value system or political ideology.
At the same time, when a member of your organization publicly endorses hateful views and you continue to employ them, there is a level of complicity. Even if you explicitly state that you do not condone bigotry, you clearly don't have a zero-tolerance policy for it.
To take a step back for a moment, we need to clarify that the content of the video met the threshold of hatred. It's not as if Bass was endorsing an unsavoury political candidate, calling for regressive taxation or showing an unfortunate lack of empathy for vulnerable members of society.
Because the video was presented through a religious framework, it is easier to consider something like this misguided rather than malicious, but that's not the case here.
The caption of the video says the following.
"For those who don’t know, Target has begun pushing the message of transitioning to young people and teamed up with a satanist to push pro Satan clothing and pins to children. The enemy isn’t even hiding anymore."
In the video itself, content creator "@dudewiththegoodnews" says people should not be engaging with Target in any way.
“No, we are running from that. Instead, expose those things," he says. "To shout it to all the people that have ears to hear. This is evil. This is demonic. We won’t stand for it.”
For those who are not caught up on the Target situation, what the retailer has done that is "evil" and "demonic" is release a line of pro-LGBTQ2S+ clothing that includes slogans such as "Just be you and feel the love," "Trans people will always exist" and "I am proud of you always."
Demonizing benign efforts to show support for a marginalized community and calling them evil is an extreme position.
Beyond being reprehensible, it's frankly dangerous in a climate in which hate crimes against LGBTQ2S+ people are on the rise and the society we live in creates an environment in which mental health crises are all too common for trans and non-binary youth.
Bass had the option to see what was going on with Target and (unfortunately) determine the company's efforts didn't mesh with his values. Instead, he made use of his platform to spread dehumanizing rhetoric.
There are those who will say there should be no consequences for Bass spreading his political views in a country that respects free speech. No one is suggesting carting the Dearborn, Michigan, native off to jail or removing any of his fundamental rights. That said, he doesn't have any constitutional right — on either side of the border — to a job in the Blue Jays' bullpen.
In the past, Toronto has suspended players under similar circumstances, with both Yunel Escobar and Kevin Pillar getting multiple games for incidents involving anti-gay slurs. Both those instances deserved to be taken seriously, but they were also more easily explained as errors of ignorance.
Neither player expressed any view specifically targeting LGBTQ2S+ people. Instead, they recklessly used unacceptable language carrying hurtful implications in a different context. Pillar notably worked hard to make things right after the fact, too.
In the case of Bass, the pitcher went out of his way to spread hatred. When he met with the media Tuesday to offer an apology, the depth of his transgression was not addressed. Instead, he delivered the following statement — prefaced by saying "I'll make this quick" — and declined to answer questions.
“I recognize yesterday I made a post that was hurtful to the Pride community, which includes friends of mine and close family members of mine. And I’m truly sorry for that. I just spoke with my teammates to share with them my actions yesterday and apologize with them. And as of right now, I’m using the Blue Jays' resources to better educate myself to make better decisions moving forward. The ballpark is for everybody. We include all fans at the ballpark. We want to welcome everybody.”
— Hazel Mae (@thehazelmae) May 30, 2023
This story is far from over, but the Blue Jays need to understand that as long as they employ Bass, they get the whole package. When the Blue Jays throw their Pride Weekend event June 9 and 10, they will be trying to send the message that everyone is welcome at the ballpark and encouraged to be a part of the community this team creates. That message will ring a little hollow if Bass starts warming up in the bullpen.
On the merits of his contribution on the diamond alone, Bass has been barely useful to the team. He's serving as a low-leverage middle reliever with a lacklustre 4.50 ERA — and he's not under contract past 2023.
Choosing the moral high ground and getting out of the Bass business would not cost the Blue Jays very much. But if the dust settles and the Blue Jays have stood by Bass in any way, shape or form, that will be a grievous error.