In Defense of Daniel Murphy

Do I agree with what Mets infielder Daniel Murphy said about Billy Bean? Nope. Do I defend his saying it? You bet I do. 

If you read the title of this column and figured you’d give it a scan and then proceed to flood my inbox, please do me the courtesy of at least reading the entire thing. I promise, it’ll do both of us a favor. Let me start by saying this: I do not, in any way, shape, or form, agree with Daniel Murphy. You could say, in fact, that I disagree with his lifestyle. That said, I do believe that A) he has every right to say it and B) it wasn’t that bad, in the grand scheme of things.

MLB: JUL 30 Phillies at Mets

First, let’s back up for a second. If you don’t already know, Mets infielder Daniel Murphy is in serious hot water for his recent comments about former Major-Leaguer Billy Bean (no, not that Billy Beane), who serves as Major League Baseball’s “ambassador for inclusion.” Bean is now openly-gay, though that wasn’t the case during his playing days. After Bean visited with the Mets, Murphy had the following to say about him, and the prospect of accepting a gay teammate, to NJ.com.

“I disagree with his lifestyle. I do disagree with the fact that Billy is a homosexual. That doesn’t mean I can’t still invest in him and get to know him. I don’t think the fact that someone is a homosexual should completely shut the door on investing in them in a relational aspect. Getting to know him. That, I would say, you can still accept them, but I do disagree with the lifestyle, 100 percent.”

Regardless of your personal stance, was what Murphy said really that bad? And should we be crucifying him for saying it? Again, it doesn’t matter if you agree or disagree. It doesn’t matter if you are pro-gay marriage or against it, as far as this is concerned. Regardless of your stance, everybody – especially those celebrities that are asked about it – should be allowed to voice their opinions. What he said wasn’t hate-fueled. He wasn’t picketing a funeral. He was simply speaking his mind, and his ideas didn’t line up with those of most commenters. 

“I disagree with his lifestyle. I do disagree with the fact that Billy is a homosexual.”

People upset with Murphy – and I swear, I’m not building a straw man here – are not wrong. What he said can absolutely be taken offensively. Calling homosexuality a “lifestyle” is ignorant and, by all accounts, incorrect. Murphy may have ultimately been better off not saying it; I think even he would agree with that. But, as a person who does not agree with Murphy and thinks what he said was definitely stupid, let me play devil’s advocate.

We always clamor for our celebrities – and I use the word somewhat loosely to describe Murphy – to be more outspoken. We don’t want them to get up and remind us they’re only present so as not to be fined; we want them to speak their minds and give us sound bites. We want even the tiniest glimpse into the life of a professional athlete. But only when we agree with what they’re saying. Sorry, media. Sorry, fans. We can’t have it both ways. We can’t beg and plead with athletes to open up and be human, then blast them for expressing a belief we don’t like. That makes each of us just as bad as Murphy. He believes homosexuality is wrong. Most people, in turn, believe he is wrong. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but that doesn’t mean we get to play moral authority.

“I don’t think the fact that someone is a homosexual should completely shut the door on investing in them in a relational aspect.”

Now, as for what he actually said. Murphy, albeit lacking the articulateness we now demand of anyone bold enough to make a recorded statement, basically said he doesn’t agree with homosexuality, but that it doesn’t mean he can’t accept Bean as a person. Murphy goes out of his way to say that he could still foster a relationship with, and accept, someone despite disagreeing with one aspect of his or her life. Is that really so bad? Murphy went on to voice a pretty popular Christian theme to the newspaper, telling them, “We love the people. We disagree [with] the lifestyle. That’s the way I would describe it for me.”

MLB: MAY 11 Phillies at Mets

Again, to “disagree” with homosexuality is not a popular, accepting, or even well-informed stance. Should that mean Murphy isn’t allowed to take it in public though? At no point did he say he hates Bean, or that he should go to hell, or that he’s everything that’s wrong with America. He simply stated that his beliefs clash with Bean’s life. Just because you’re on Bean’s side doesn’t mean we should go after Murphy with torches and pitchforks. Trying to get the entire world to agree on anything is a losing battle; isn’t Murphy’s stance – that his religious beliefs go against Bean, but that he still respects Bean as a person and accepts him for what he is – sort of the best-case scenario? 

What Daniel Murphy said was ill-advised. I, like many in this country, do not agree with a word of it. Still, that doesn’t mean we have the right to destroy him for it. We beg our celebrities to open up and stray from the script, only to lambast them when they do. I don’t agree with Daniel Murphy, but he has every right to say what he said. Let’s not lose sight of that.

Agree? Disagree? Use the comments, and I’ll be sure to engage in an intelligent conversation. 

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