The poorly handled Anthony Bass situation in Toronto underscores the divide between corporate Pride and the needs of the needs of queer communities.
On May 29, Bass shared an Instagram reel from a Christian fascist account calling for the boycott of Bud Light and Target, while referencing 2SLGBTQ+ folks as evil and demonic. It's the type of fascist online content that has become all too familiar to queer folks, and serves as an example of the explicit hatred Bass' character witness Tomi Lahren frequently espouses.
The following day, Bass attempted an apology of sorts, while promising "I'll make this quick." His 33-second statement emphasized his conversations with his teammates and acknowledged that he was going to access the Blue Jays resources to learn. It's hard to qualify his extremely brief media availability as an apology to queer communities – the communities he actually harmed – when he was unable to name his victims, instead referring to LGBTQ folks as the "Pride community."
Perhaps it's fitting then, that Bass met with Pride Toronto director, Sherwin Modeste, as part of his learning on June 6. It was, after all, the "Pride community" he apologized to and the "Pride community" he kept referring to in an interview with the Canadian Press and Sportsnet on June 8. In this second attempt at publicly rehabilitating his image, he never referred to the 2SLGBTQ+ community specifically nor does he mention any queer people by name. Even after spending an hour talking to Modeste, Bass used Christian fascist dog whistles in describing the coming out process as a "decision":
Modeste explained to him "how a lot of people obviously are very uncomfortable coming out and making that big decision in their lives and how many people end up taking their lives because of that if they don't have that support group to help them feel comfortable," said Bass. "It definitely made me think back about my post. Obviously, being a public figure, it might not go over well with someone that's trying to feel comfortable in making a decision for their life. For that reason, I definitely apologize not only to Sherwin, but also knowing that I could have kept those thoughts and feelings to myself, not knowing that it's a very difficult decision for a lot of people to come out."
None of Bass' behavior to this point is in any way surprising, based on the content he has repeatedly shared on social media. His transgression was not one of ignorance and could not be fixed with learning and "resources", or through a meeting with someone like Modeste. His second attempt at changing the subject is surely a result of his hostile reception by Blue Jay fans on May 30, who booed him throughout his relief appearance.
Many have wondered why the Blue Jays would spend so much energy supporting Bass, one of the team's worst relievers. The realist in me believes Bass probably isn't alone in his views in the Jays' dugout and supporting Bass has more to do with supporting better players who are smart enough not to be so open about their bigotry.
But the question also reveals something about Bass' actions. Surely, he's attempting to save his major league career. The pitcher was already on thin ice with Jays fans after social posts earlier in the season and the May 30 reception made clear to the player – if not the organization – that public opinion was not on his side. Bass has repeatedly confirmed that the post expressed beliefs he shared. He also knows what his stats are and he heard the boos loud and clear. His pathetic apology attempts are about his job, not queer communities.
Bass' June 8 interview was widely panned by fans, so much so that when the Jays teased a mid-day announcement, many openly speculated it was to release Bass. The team's actual announcement read like a headline from the Canadian satirical magazine The Beaverton. Ahead of the Jays' Pride weekend, an event they've been promoting for weeks, the club announced Bass would catch the ceremonial first pitch, thrown by leZlie Lee Kam, a 2SLGBTQI+awareness consultant and workshop facilitator who works primarily with seniors and elders in the community.
It's a completely avoidable blunder from an organization that isn't that far removed from pushing Kevin Pillar's redemption on its queer fanbase. In giving Bass this moment, ostensibly as a sign of his repentance and growth, the team has made its Pride weekend about Bass. That it comes at the recommendation of Modeste might seem surprising. But Pride Toronto is increasingly divorced from the needs of the city's queer population. From funding controversies to its damaging relationship with Toronto's police force, Pride Toronto resembles the other institutional players in the city, who have blatantly left behind the citizens they ostensibly serve.
The Bass ceremonial first pitch is an attempt at the perfect marriage: for a team looking to host a Pride weekend that appeases "all sides"; for a queer organization that values corporate partnership above all else; and for their shared corporate sponsor, TD Bank, to not have to choose between the team and one of the world's biggest Pride celebrations.
This isn't about queer people. We haven't been meaningfully considered by any of the parties involved. On Friday night, Bass hopes he can catch the ceremonial first pitch and with it "keep doing my job and hopefully in time things will get better."
Here's hoping the Blue Jays faithful make that impossible.
(Photo: Kyle Hinkson/Unsplash)