(This article was published in 2001).

For the third time this year, a pro athlete used the “F” word against a fan. This time the culprit is Chicago Cubs pitcher Julian Tavarez.

Tavarez, a 27-year-old right-hander, lost his cool on April 28 while being booed by fans in San Francisco in a 5-0 loss to the Giants. The fans were angry at Tavarez for a fight he had gotten into spring training with the Giants’ Russ Davis and for his hard forearm tag of Marvin Benard.

“Why should I care about the fans?” Tavarez said after the game. “They’re a bunch of assholes and faggots here.”

Tavarez, who played three years with the Giants, was roundly criticized for his remarks by the media, Cubs president Andy MacPhail and his manager, Don Baylor.

“Did Tavarez understand what he was saying, the way he said it so calmly?” asked San Francisco Chronicle columnist Gwen Knapp. “He spent three years as a Giant. Surely, he knows that San Francisco is the gay capital of America. If someone wants to use the fashionable excuse that his remarks were `ill-considered,’ Tavarez will have to explain how, with so little
consideration, he got his demographics right.”

The next day, prompted by Baylor, Tavarez apologized.

“I want to apologize to the city of San Francisco and say how sorry I am for what I said,” Tavarez said. “I’m a very emotional man and I don’t always mean what I say. Sometimes my emotions get the best of me. I am very sorry, very sorry.”

This is progress. It took John Rocker, Allen Iverson and Jason Williams days or weeks to apologize (somewhat grudgingly) for their anti-gay comments. A lot of credit has to go to Cubs management, which was quick to condemn the remarks. But baseball must send a further message by suspending and fining Tavarez.

“I don’t know what baseball is going to do, but I had to take care of what I could take care of within the team,” Baylor told the Chicago Tribune. “He had to apologize to the team and the organization.

“He was wrong in what he said. He owed the city of San Francisco an apology, a sincere apology. A lot of times guys get caught up in a lot of emotional whatever, but … we still haven’t learned a lot from the Rocker situation.”

Ironically, Tavarez began a five-game suspension Sunday for his spring-training fight with Davis, and could be facing more off time if baseball punishes him for his remarks. Davis was suspended for two games.

The apology was not enough for some members of Chicago’s gay community.

“I will never buy another ticket to a Cubs game or any of their paraphernalia as long as he’s with the team,” said George Cupka, a 48-year-old high school teacher and softball player told the Chicago Tribune. “I don’t want my money going to pay a bigot’s salary.”

Players in a gay Chicago softball league told the Tribune that Tavarez should meet with about 2,000 gay Cubs fans expected to attend a game the day before the June 24 Gay Pride Day.

“This is his chance to come out and learn that what he said was a stupid mistake,” said Jerry Pritikin, a gay softball pitcher. “He’s talking about thousands and thousands of people, and he’s painting them all with the same brush. When you sit down and really get to know gay people, only then do you realize that gays are like everybody else.”

Tribune columnist Skip Bayless said a message must be sent to athletes who make such comments:

“Tavarez has a right to his opinions as long as he doesn’t express them in a public forum as a member of the Cubs. But he needs to be taught the difference. Another message needs to be sent rap-song strongly to all athletes. Recently Jason Williams of the Sacramento Kings used ethnic slurs while trading insults with fans.

“Bring down the hammer. Continue to show them their jock-god entitlement has its boundaries. Remind them they–unfortunately–influence kids’ opinions.”

Tavarez is the fifth pro athlete in 18 months and the third this year to become embroiled in controversy for making derogatory remarks, including those about gays.

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