While most MLB fans were busily tweeting about the Robinson Canó PED-related suspension (update to this post now live!), Cincinnati Reds INF Joey Votto caused a social media tempest in his home country of Canada with some controversial remarks about Canadian baseball. While sitting for a Yahoo podcast interview with Tim Brown, Votto was asked whether he was also sharing in the “Canadian love” after the no-hitter thrown by fellow Canadian James Paxton of the Seattle Mariners. Votto’s response:
“I don’t care almost at all about Canadian baseball…I wasn’t raised inside of Canadian baseball, really. I played on a local team, but as an 18-year-old I was drafted and I’m coming up on half of my life being in the United States working and being supported by American baseball…I’m more happy for [Paxton] as a fellow player…but as far as Toronto and Canadian baseball and the country of Canada and him being Canadian, I don’t care at all. He or the Jays or Canada in general may disagree with that, but I couldn’t give a rat’s ass about that…I’m more happy for him. That was a great moment. I’m not connected to Toronto so I don’t feel that sort of way about that. I’m sorry. I don’t mean to be a Grinch about it.”
Votto was immediately condemned by Canadian sports fans on social media.
I would sure hope — unless a thorough explanation & apology comes quickly — that Joey Votto’s comments today disqualify him from ever getting into @CDNBaseballHOF.
— Matthew Sekeres (@mattsekeres) May 16, 2018
I know a boy who proudly wore a Joey Votto jersey despite being a diehard Jays fan. Today his Mom told me he threw it out in tears. You must be so proud! You needed to attack Canada? They can keep you. #UnCanadian #mlb #JoeyVotto #Unkind #RespectLost @Reds
— Sandiemcr (@Sandiemcr) May 16, 2018
Joey Bats > Joey Votto
(❤️ for Canadian baseball)
— Blue Jays Dad (@BlueJaysDad) May 16, 2018
Joey Votto expressed frustration, thus he is now banned from Canada? pic.twitter.com/6HqKVr0u11
— Today in Reds Facebook™ (@TodayInRedsFB) May 16, 2018
— gerry (@BoutilierGerry) May 16, 2018
Since the 2010 NL MVP has not been living in Canada full-time since he was drafted by the Reds from high school, he may have failed to recall that despite sentiment that Canada is not a nation in a true sense and the fact that the formation of the country is really a product of British colonialism and fear of a US invasion following the American Civil War, there is nothing that Anglo Canadians hold more sacred than their pride in the accident of being born in the True North and, therefore, his remarks would not be received well.
Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star pointed out that the expectation that Votto should be grateful to Canadian baseball is unfair since Votto had never participated in Team Canada junior baseball and was passed over by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 2002 draft.
Although Votto has no social media presence, as he noted during the Yahoo podcast, his PR team must have noticed the negative reaction and the five-time Reds All-Star soon issued an apology to Canadian sports fans through email and TV appearances.
“I am saddened that I was so flagrant with my remarks and more importantly that I offended so many people that mean so much to me.”
Interestingly, the Gold Glove first baseman owned up to an actual human failing rather than falling back on the standard non-apology apology so common in these situations by stating that his comments sprung from jealousy for the recognition given to SP James Paxton.
“Clearly my reply came out of a side of jealousy for a Canadian baseball athlete being celebrated in the city of Toronto [Votto’s hometown].” It’s refreshing to hear an athlete admit to having feelings, and negative ones at that.
While Votto has been honored by the Canadian sports establishment for his achievements, he does play for a small-market US team that has not had much success during his tenure with the franchise, so he is not a household name in his homeland. It’s not surprising that he would feel some resentment toward a player who has received more recognition in his hometown during the course of a night’s work than he has during 12 years in the majors.
This incident should serve as a reminder that the people we see on our TV screens are only human and subject to the same petty jealousies as the rest of us. As former NBA star Charles Barkley said, “I’m not a role model.”
Votto’s Reds next face an NL Central Division rival in the Chicago Cubs for a weekend series at home starting on Friday at 7:10 PM ET (Tickets- SeatGeek).
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