During the magical 2016 baseball season, when the fresh-faced Chicago Cubs won the World Series, I was able to spy a dark cloud. The team, lacking a dominant “closer” to finish games, made a trade for Aroldis Chapman. At the time Chapman, with his 100-m.p.h. fastball, was nearly unhittable. As Cubs’ brass predicted, Chapman was a key performer in Chicago’s first Major League Baseball title in 108 years.
There was just one problem.
In 2015 Chapman, a defector from Cuba, was credibly accused of choking his girlfriend and firing eight gunshots. No charges were filed against Chapman, but Major League Baseball banned him for 30 games. The 2016 Cubs, led by President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein, made a big deal of team character and chemistry. But they made an exception in Chapman’s case.
So while I celebrated the Cubs’ heart-stopping championship along with millions of others in the Windy City, I knew deep down that it had come at something of a moral cost.
Then this year, with the team’s offense faltering, the front office brought in an experienced batsman named Daniel Murphy—the same Daniel Murphy who as a New York Met had destroyed Cubs pitching in the 2015 playoffs, the year before Chicago went on its title run.
A no-brainer, right? Not so fast! I heard a comment from a sports journalist I respect say that the Murphy signing was “controversial,” linking it with the earlier Chapman deal.
Uh-oh, I thought. What kind of miscreant have they brought in this time? Did Murphy beat his wife? Do drugs? What?
Well, it turns out, also in 2015, that Murphy, a professing Christian, had politely stated his disagreement with the homosexual lifestyle after a visit to the Mets by the openly gay Billy Bean, the MLB’s Ambassador for Inclusion. “I do disagree with the fact that Billy is a homosexual,” Murphy said. “That doesn’t mean I can’t still invest in him and get to know him,” and “you can still accept [gays], but I do disagree with the lifestyle, 100 percent.”
And, true to his word, after the resulting furor, Murphy did reach out to Bean, helping to establish a cordial relationship between the two men.
Yet, in the eyes of some, Murphy’s “sin” is on par with that of a man credibly accused of domestic violence. For expressing his opinion. Some prominent voices in the ever more progressive Chicago sports media universe weren’t shy about expressing theirs.
“Lest anybody forget the moral compromise Epstein and the Cubs made just two years ago in trading for closer Aroldis Chapman despite his checkered past involving domestic abuse,” opined David Haugh, lead sports columnist for the Tribune and a fixture on local radio and television. “That was just as difficult a philosophical bridge to cross.”
Really? Just as difficult? Disagreement with homosexual practice equals domestic violence? Haugh was just getting warmed up.
“Trading for Chapman back then was about winning a championship, not a popularity contest,” Haugh said. “The same context applies to adding Murphy to a batting order in dire need of a boost. You don’t have to agree with Murphy’s homophobic views – which he publicly expressed three years ago when he disavowed the gay ‘lifestyle’ in an interview – to endorse this trade as a good one for the Cubs. If the Ricketts family that owns the Cubs – including Laura, who’s a lesbian – approved the transaction then that should settle any debate over how the Cubs feel about their social responsibility before it starts.”
So hiring someone with Murphy’s views strikes a blow against “social responsibility,” too? Apparently those who decline, however politely, to give their hearty assent to the new sexual orthodoxy can expect to receive the heretic treatment.
What this means for freedom of speech among Major League ballplayers is easy to see. Can you imagine any player who dissents from the prevailing view speaking up now?
The larger lesson is even more chilling. Those of us who oppose homosexual practice and novelties such as “gay marriage” out of respect for God and His Word, and a genuine desire for human flourishing, have been consigned, along with wife-beaters, to society’s outer darkness. There’s no getting around the fact that the cultural ground has shifted beneath our feet.
And the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision in 2015 redefining marriage is a big reason why. In a minority opinion, Justice Samuel Alito warned that the ruling “will be used to vilify Americans who are unwilling to assent to the new orthodoxy. In the course of its opinion, the majority compares traditional marriage laws to laws that denied equal treatment for African-Americans and women. The implications of this analogy will be exploited by those who are determined to stamp out every vestige of dissent.”
Alito was right. The vilification came in, like a fastball, high and tight, and no one is safe—not even a star baseball player. Yet dissent we must.
Stan Guthrie, a licensed minister, is an editor at large for the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. Stan is the author of God’s Story in 66 Verses.