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Jays reliever Bass meets with Pride Toronto director after apologizing for post

Toronto Blue Jays relief pitcher Anthony Bass (52) works against the Milwaukee Brewers during ninth inning MLB baseball action in Toronto on Wednesday, May 31, 2023. Blue Jays pitcher Anthony Bass said he's "in a better place moving forward" after speaking with Pride Toronto's executive director in the wake of his social media post that supported anti-2SLGBTQ+ boycotts. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

TORONTO — Blue Jays pitcher Anthony Bass said he's "in a better place moving forward" after speaking with Pride Toronto's executive director in the wake of his social media post that supported anti-2SLGBTQ+ boycotts.

Bass, who made a public apology last week, said he had a "really good conversation" with Sherwin Modeste during a recent meeting at Rogers Centre.

"He was glad to see that I apologized," Bass said. "He just informed me about the Pride community and a lot of the good things that they're doing to spread awareness and make people feel comfortable with their decisions."

Modeste was pleased that Bass was willing to "unpack" some things when they met on Tuesday.

"I think it is a good second step but it is not the end of the journey," Modeste said when reached by phone Wednesday night. "I see this as a continuation of learning and this was something that we agreed on."

Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins spoke on the subject Thursday in his first media availability since Bass made the Instagram post on May 29. 

"I felt his apology and his accountability to be authentic or we would be talking about a different outcome, quite frankly," Atkins said. "That was absolutely necessary for us to be together with how strongly we feel about the progress that has been made by the Toronto Blue Jays in this community.

"It needs to continue. I don't think you can ever do enough. We'll stay true to that commitment to make this environment as inclusive as we possibly can."

Bass was booed by the home crowd last week in his first game appearance since making a brief pre-game statement on May 30. 

He prefaced his remarks that day by saying, "I’ll make this quick" before speaking for 33 seconds and returning to the dugout. Bass declined to take questions from reporters at the time.

Bass had shared a since-deleted video post urging others to spurn Target and Bud Light over the support they showed for the 2SLGBTQ+ community.

In an interview Wednesday afternoon with The Canadian Press and Sportsnet, Bass said Modeste shed light on some topics in their one-hour conversation.

"(We were) talking about how a lot of people obviously are very uncomfortable coming out and making that big decision in their lives and how many people end up taking their lives because of that," Bass said.

"They didn't have that support group to help them get comfortable. So it definitely made me think back on my post and obviously being a public figure, it might not go over well with someone that's trying to feel comfortable in making a decision for their life. 

"So for that reason, I definitely apologize, not only to Sherwin, but also knowing that I could have just kept those thoughts and feelings to myself, not knowing that it's a very difficult decision for a lot of people to come out."

The Blue Jays' fourth annual Pride Weekend begins Friday against the Minnesota Twins. 

The event features involvement from various 2SLGBTQ+ organizations across the community, pre-game festivities, live performances and themed activities.

Bass, who no longer uses Twitter and has deleted the Instagram app from his phone, said he has taken some learnings from this experience.

"I have my personal beliefs in my faith and that's what initially drew me to re-post the video that I did," he said. "Through this process, speaking with Sherwin, getting the backlash from the majority of people here in Toronto, I just need to be more sensitive in understanding people are free to think and feel the way they want, and not to cause any type of burden or strain on someone that may be trying to make a decision with their life that some people might not be accepting of. 

"I think I've learned that being accepting of everyone's views and values and beliefs is important."

Modeste said once they got to know each other a little bit, the conversation turned to unpacking the effect that Bass's post had on the community.

"He took full responsibility for it and said he now has a better understanding of (how) his reposting something (can) have an impact on other's lives," Modeste said. 

"So that for me was what I was wanting to get. So I went in, I'm not going to hide, I (wanted) to really hammer home so he can leave that conversation having a better understanding of his power, his privilege and when he screws up, how that can affect others. 

"I think that was made very clear and I don't foresee this mistake happening (again) on his part."

Bass also held a media scrum before Thursday night's game against the Houston Astros. 

He said he initially did not think the video post - which described the selling of Pride-themed merchandise as "evil" and "demonic" - was hateful.

"That's why I posted it originally," he said. "When I look back at it, I can see how people can view it that way and that's why I was apologetic."

Modeste also mentioned options for potential next steps and offered support and to help facilitate interaction with other community members.

For now, Modeste said, what happens next was left for Bass to think about. 

"We left the conversation with a clear understanding that the respect that he expects for his belief and what he cherishes, that he will give the same respect to others," Modeste said.

Bass, meanwhile, said the lines of communication were open and he felt like he has "built a friendship."

On Friday, Bass plans to catch the ceremonial first pitch by leZlie Lee Kam, who has spent over 45 years working in the 2SLGBTQ+ community as a champion for senior and youth issues.

"I just want to let people know that there is unity there, there's acceptance there," Bass said. "It's like a symbol of acceptance and unity and I thought that was the right thing."

Asked about the reception he's expecting from the home crowd on the weekend, the veteran pitcher said he won't be surprised if fans are vocal.

"I would expect more boos," he said. "It's still fresh, it's still pretty new and I think it's going to take some more time than just a week and a half to get the fans hopefully changing those boos into cheers. But I get it. 

"I understand where they're coming from. So I'm just going to keep doing my job and hopefully in time things will be better."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 8, 2023. 

Follow @GregoryStrongCP on Twitter.

Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press

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