Why Torii Hunter’s views on gays matter

Last July, Major League Baseball used its biggest in-season stage — the All-Star Game in Minneapolis — to try to convince people that its days of creating a hostile environment for the gay athlete — or gays at all — are over.

It tried to make amends for its treatment of Glenn Burke, a player who died of AIDS.

Baseball has never had an openly gay player, try as it might to stage events to convince people that this fact is anything but the result of a hostile environment for the gay athlete, made so by the athletes who play baseball and the people who run the teams and the game itself.

When it held its news conference last July to set the record straight, nobody said it wasn’t the time nor place to talk about baseball and gays.

Today, however, they did, when a Pioneer Press reporter asked Torii Hunter, signed by the Minnesota Twins for his leadership skills and character, to explain whether he’s changed his view on gays.

“For me, as a Christian…I will be uncomfortable because in all my teachings and all my learning, biblically, it’s not right. It will be difficult and uncomfortable,” Hunter said in a 2012 article, which he later claimed misquoted him.

Then this year, Hunter campaigned on behalf of Asa Hutchinson, a Republican gubernatorial candidate in his native Arkansas. He cited his belief that marriage is between one man and one woman, something the voters of Minnesota have decided is not the way it is in Minnesota.

Is there a relationship between Hunter’s attitude toward gays, and the problem Major League Baseball tried to insist it was addressing earlier this year? Moreover, is that a fitting question for a baseball player?

Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press asked Hunter about his anti-gay marriage comments he’s made in the past at the news conference at Target Field today.

Hunter said his views are known, then castigated Beradino for asking the question.

WCCO describes the moment

“Nothing to talk about,” Hunter said. “You already know, so why keep talking about it? I said it. It is what it is. So, no, I’m not going to talk about it if you bring it up. It’s not even baseball related. You can do that later, when I retire, then I’ll tell you everything.”

A few seconds later, Hunter turned his attention back to the reporter.

“Hey, Mike is kind of a prick, huh? No, seriously. You’re a prick, man. I don’t even know you. You’re a prick, seriously,” Hunter said. “Ain’t nothing wrong with that, man, that’s your job. He’s definitely a prick, though.”

After the news conference, other sports journalists and Twins employees rose to Hunter’s defense.

Others suggested the news conference was no place to ask about social issues.

But baseball got itself in this position starting with last summer’s news conference, and possibly going back further — to when it bowed out of a project aimed at gay and lesbian teenagers who are bullied.

“Glenn wouldn’t be upset that it took this long. He’d just say, ‘It’s about time you guys showed up,’ ” Glenn Burke’s sister said at the July news conference about baseball’s newfound sensitivity toward gays.

At Target Field, “don’t ask, don’t tell” is still the law of the land.