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Bisexual high school baseball player calls out opponent for gay slur

Sam Culwell, a bisexual high school pitcher in upstate New York, said he was called a gay slur by an opposing team.

Sam Culwell
Justin Fedich / Times Herald-Record, with permission.

A high school baseball player in upstate New York who came out publicly as bisexual a year ago has condemned one or two players on an opposing team who called him a “faggot” during a game earlier this month.

Sam Culwell, 17, a pitcher and third baseman at Rondout Valley High School in Kenhonkson, New York, detailed the April 10 incident against Marlboro in a Facebook post:

My name is Sam Culwell. I’m a straight A student, I play baseball for Rondout Valley’s varsity team, and as a matter of fact I’m the captain. I’ve played baseball since I was 4, and I’ve loved it ever since. Training year round is fun to me, and there’s nothing like going up to the field with my teammates after school for a game or practice. 13 years of playing baseball and I was fortunate enough to find a great college program that I feel comfortable playing at.

Last year I came out as bisexual, and in a small school like mine, it came with it’s struggles. Luckily enough, I have helped to change my friend’s and my school’s views on sexuality and sports.... that is to say there’s no reason to discriminate against an athlete for this reason, and I want to be judged based on my abilities, sportsmanship, and effort. I’m better than I’ve ever been because of hard work both on the field and in learning to accept myself. Today my team played Marlboro, which is our biggest rival. I came in to relieve our pitcher after he threw 4 1/3 great innings. We were losing 4-1 and as expected, I was pitching well and got out of the inning.

Next inning rolls around and my coach came out to the mound to just give me a breather. At this point I had already struck out one batter and as my coach comes up to talk to me all I hear from the opposing dugout is “tell him he’s a failure and a faggot” it took all of my composure to not break down on the spot.

I am disappointed, disgusted, and hurt by the treatment that I have received by Marlboro Central Schools Athletes and coaches. There is no room for hate, especially in a high school baseball game. We are all there for the same reason. Our love of baseball. And shame on your program for going out of their way to try and ruin what I love so much. All I have to say is Marlboro Central School District Take notes from my school. We have the ability to change, accept and embrace those who are different.

The slur clearly shook Culwell, who came out publicly on Instagram last year and was able to eventually win over his teammates and classmates after some hostility. His dad, Brian, told Justin Fedich of the Times Herald-Record newspaper how the incident affected his son:

As Brian watched from the crowd, he couldn’t hear what was said but knew something was wrong. After Culwell escaped the sixth inning, he stormed to the dugout in anger, sat on the bench and wept.

“I saw his disposition change,” Brian said. “Something just happened.”

After refusing to shake his opponents’ hands postgame, Culwell came home, still stirring over what happened.

“You did nothing wrong,” Colleen [his mom] told him, “but I wish you hadn’t let them see you cry.”

Sam broke down again. “But it hurts so much,” he said.

The Marlboro Central School District is investigating the incident. The Times Herald-Record reports that two of Culwell’s teammates heard “faggot,” while “Marlboro witnesses have said the statement was, ‘Tell him he’s a failure and fat.’” It is unclear if one or two players used the slur.

A suspension is warranted if the slur was used and Marlboro’s coach John Morrissey needs to be grilled on whether he condones such language among his players and what he intends to do about it.

“Hate of any kind is unacceptable, immoral and goes against all that we as a district believe, live and teach,” Marlboro Superintendent Michael M. Brooks said in a prepared statement, reported by the Daily Freeman. “We have been made aware of a serious allegation made against an individual on our varsity baseball team. It is alleged that inflammatory and derogatory name-calling related to an opposing player’s sexuality was used during a recent game.”

Brooks said the school district has begun an investigation under its Dignity for All Students Act.

”If the investigation warrants, there will be immediate and appropriate consequences,” he said.

Culwell did respond positively in one major respect by not letting the slur affect his on-field performance. During a game Thursday, he hit a three-run home run and broke up a no-hitter to help defeat a rival. “The dugout cleared to celebrate with him at home plate,” the Times-Herald said.

Culwell will attend community college this fall and has hopes of eventually playing baseball at a Division I school. He will do it with pride and a sense of knowing who he is.

“If I do make it that far, I do want to be a role model to everyone,” Culwell told Fedich in a terrific profile of Culwell that goes beyond the incident. “But also, at the same time, that’s not my goal. I just want to be good at something that I love.”