Daniel Murphy

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DiCaro: LGBTQ Cubs Fans Deserve Better

Daniel Murphy made anti-gay comments in 2015.

Julie DiCaro
August 22, 2018 - 4:25 pm
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(670 The Score) Back in spring training in 2015, Mets general manager Sandy Alderson tried to foster understanding and tolerance in his team's clubhouse by inviting Billy Bean, an openly gay former big leaguer and MLB’s inclusion ambassador, to spend a day in uniform with the club. Twenty years earlier, Bean had left baseball after a six-year career, feeling he could no longer endure hiding who he was. He also didn’t feel he could come out and remain in the game.

One of the players with the Mets that year was Daniel Murphy. That fall, he’d go on to destroy the Cubs in the National League Championship Series, hitting .529 with four home runs in a series sweep. But at the time, Murphy was just another player on the Mets who was asked about Bean’s message to the team by a reporter. Murphy could've replied that Bean was welcome in the Mets clubhouse. He could've said Bean seemed like a great guy with an important message. He could've said nothing at all.

Instead, took a different route.

"I disagree with his lifestyle," Murphy said. "I do disagree with the fact that Billy is a homosexual. That doesn't mean I can't still invest in him and get to know him. I don't think the fact that someone is a homosexual should completely shut the door on investing in them in a relational aspect. Getting to know him. That, I would say, you can still accept them but I do disagree with the lifestyle, 100 percent."

Murphy went on to talk about hating the sin but loving the sinner, using the old trope to mask his intolerance. But the damage was already done. Murphy’s comments whipped around baseball fans like wildfire. He was branded and anti-gay bigot by fans.

Fast forward to 2018 and a struggling Cubs team. Though the Cubs hold the best record in the National League, the offense has been maddenly inconsistent. Former MVP Kris Bryant has been on the disabled list since late July. Addison Russell is struggling with a hand injury and has morphed into a black hole in the lineup. Willson Contreras seems to have lost his power stroke. The team has scored exactly one run in each of its past five games.

And so the Cubs -- who have had a presence in the Chicago Pride Parade every year since 2010, who have been hosting "Out at Wrigley" since 2001 and whose stadium sits just outside one the most iconic LGBTQ neighborhoods in the country -- decided to trade for Murphy on Tuesday.

On its face, the deal is a no-brainer. The Cubs gave up almost nothing, and Murphy, who's hitting .340 and slugging .528 in his last 30 games, should provide a much-needed lift on offense. From a public relations standpoint, bringing Murphy to Wrigley Field is harder to understand.

Many Cubs fans have only recently made an uneasy peace with the team’s first World Series ring in 108 years coming at the expense of having Aroldis Chapman on the team. The presence of Chapman, who had been suspended previously by the league for domestic violence allegations, was so odious to some fans that they began contributing to domestic violence charities for each of his saves. Coming from a Cubs front office that has talked repeatedly about character, adding Murphy to the team feels like yet another punch to the postseason gut.

While no one would argue that Murphy’s comments were akin to the allegations against Chapman, there’s no doubt that they cut deeply in the LGBTQ community. Parker Molloy -- a writer, Cubs fan and member of the LGBTQ community -- believed Murphy’s comments amounted to more than just him sharing his beliefs.

"I understand that some people might argue that simply 'disagreeing' with one's sexuality — or in Murphy's case, saying that he disagrees 'with the fact that (someone) is homosexual' — isn't in itself homophobic," Molloy said. "It is. Imagine if someone came up to you and said they 'disagree' with your hair. Not that they don't like your hair, but that they disagree with the fact you have hair. It doesn't make sense."

Emmy Goerling, a lesbian Cubs fan, was similarly upset by the Murphy trade.

"When I found out that not only was Laura Ricketts gay but the first openly gay owner of a sports team, my heart soared," Goerling said. "It made me feel like I had a place in baseball. So to hear about Murphy, my first reaction was disappointment. The other shoe dropped. That's what it's like being a gay sports fan (and just existing, I guess) -- waiting for inevitable disappointment."

Though Bean has said he believes Murphy has evolved on LGBTQ issues, Murphy himself has never addressed or expounded on his 2015 comments. Nor has Murphy said publicly that his feelings with regard to the LGBTQ community have changed. Despite reports that Murphy and Bean have become friends in the last few years, it’s clear that the LGBTQ community and its allies want to hear from Murphy himself before declaring him a changed man.

"As for the idea that if someone is friends with one person from a marginalized group -- whether that's in the form of 'I have a gay friend,' 'I have a black friend' or anything else — that's just not how it works," Molloy says. "For example, there are plenty of sexist men who are married to women. The point is, a single connection does not negate the broader beliefs about an entire group of people. Murphy's comments were hurtful, harmful, and yes, homophobic."

Chris Dockum, a gay Cubs fans, agrees.

"Language like 'the gay lifestyle' continues to further the myth of a choice," Dockum said. "I was wearing my Pride Cubs hat yesterday when I heard about the Murphy deal, and my first reaction was to remove it.  I understand that people can change, and Billy Bean has indicated in the press that his views are evolving. But I need to hear that from the Cubs and Daniel Murphy. I want to know if he would support me before I support him."

Given Murphy’s history and the Cubs’ involvement with the LGBTQ community on the North Side, it’s hard to imagine that the team was unaware of the backlash that would come following the trade. That ownership, which includes an openly gay Laura Ricketts, has remained silent more than 24 hours after news of the trade broke seems ill-advised from a PR standpoint and cruel from an ethical one.

This Sunday, the Cubs will host "Out at Wrigley," a celebration of LGBTQ fans, days after bringing in a player reviled for his anti-gay comments. The longer the team goes without addressing Murphy’s past, the more damage it does to its relationship with LGBTQ fans.

The Ricketts family approved the deal to acquire Murphy, with Laura Ricketts receiving assurances that Murphy worked with MLB following his remarks in 2015, the Chicago Tribune reported. Given that Murphy has never publicly walked back his comments, many Cubs fans crave and deserve those same assurances.

"If the Cubs ever do say anything about Murphy, I have basically no expectations," Goerling said. "It'll probably boil down to: 'We know what he's said in the past, but we believe he's changed," but no comments to exactly how. I know I'll never hear Murphy take back what he said. In conclusion: Everything hurts."

Cubs fan Joe Rajchel believes the silence on the part of the Cubs "feels like a betrayal."

"Growing up, it was incredible and moving to see an organization like the Cubs being at the forefront of recognizing its LGBTQ fans and engaging in ways like the pride parade," Rajchel said. "I still get emotional remembering the feeling it instilled in me that even as I worried about the other people in my life as I came out, I could point to something that united us (the Cubs) and say ‘They are on board.' I’m not naive enough to figure all players/coaches/general staff share the same belief, but as an organization they made (LGBTQ inclusiveness) part of their core values. (The Murphy trade) makes all that seem disingenuous."

Of course, for every fan upset by the Murphy deal, there are many who couldn’t care less about his anti-gay lifestyle as long as he produces at the plate. And it’s inevitable that fans, even grudgingly, will accept Murphy and move on, just as they did with Chapman. It’s what teams count on when bringing in players with less-than-ideal histories: outrage fatigue and eventual surrender.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that professional sports teams, no matter how often they carry on about character, will always choose winning when it comes right down to it. And while most fans aren’t naive enough to think all the players they root for are choir boys, that knowledge doesn’t lessen the hurt when a team brings in a player who has made comments as intolerant as Murphy has.

Longtime Cubs fan and gay man Mark Farrell was shocked by the Cubs' failure to speak on the issue.

"As a PR person who respects how good the Cubs generally are at this kind of thing, I'm totally flabbergasted that they've chosen not to address the hurt that this causes people," Farrell said. "Treating this as a non-issue is almost as hurtful as the comments themselves."

Cyd Zeigler, Editor of Outsports.com, was less surprised.

"Daniel Murphy is literally baseball's posterchild for homophobia, speaking proudly about how he disagrees with my lifestyle '100%,'" Zeigler said. "He has done absolutely nothing to undo the pain he caused with those words. Sadly, the Cubs are like every other pro sports team: They'll embrace our community when it's convenient and they can make some money, and they'll jettison any concerns we might have when they see fit."

It remains to be seen whether Murphy will walk back his 2015 comments anytime soon. The topic wasn't broached in his first comments with the media Wednesday afternoon ahead of the Cubs' game in the evening, and a request for an official comment from the Cubs organization wasn't immediately returned. 

But this much is clear: In the wake of the Murphy deal, many LGBTQ Cubs fans want reassurance that they still matter to the team, both as supporters and as human beings.

The Cubs owe them that.

Julie DiCaro is the co-host of the "Julie & Maggie Show," which can be heard Saturdays on 670 The Score. Follow her on Twitter @JulieDiCaro.​