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“I’m sure there’s some hoops he’s going to go through, some apologizing, which he should have to go through,” Gonzalez said. “But for a person to lose their job, I wouldn’t think so. I hope it doesn’t.”

The Braves and Major League Baseball are under scrutiny, however, to impose a punishment with some bite if the team’s investigation validates the allegations against McDowell.

Activists for the gay community are outraged by the allegations, coming just weeks after NBA star Kobe Bryant was fined $100,000 for using a common homophobic slur to express frustration over a referee’s call.

“It remains to be seen whether the Atlanta Braves will take real disciplinary action and send a clear message that there is no place for anti-gay remarks or violent threats in baseball,” said Jarrett Barrios, president of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.

Barrios said the Braves and Major League Baseball should follow the lead of the NBA “by speaking out in support of gay and lesbian baseball fans and players around the country, and by taking steps to make the sport a safe place for everyone.”

Wren said he hopes to have the investigation wrapped up by end of the weekend, and added that any punishment would be coordinated with commissioner Bud Selig’s office. Selig has already called the allegations “very troubling.”

Returning from an encouraging West Coast trip, the Braves opened a three-game series against St. Louis, looking to put all the ugliness behind them.

“We’re still going to have a good reputation,” catcher Brian McCann said. “This organization is top of the line. I’m not worried about that.”

Gonzalez found himself in a position that no manager wants, especially a first-year skipper who replaced a future Hall of Famer. Cox retired last season after managing the Braves since 1990, a tenure marked by 15 playoff appearances and little turmoil off the field.

His replacement hopes this will be a defining moment for the new regime. The Braves came into Friday’s game having won five of six to get back to .500.

“There’s some lessons here to be learned by everybody,” Gonzalez said. “You look at how you handle the situations that come at you, and hopefully making a positive outcome out of negative situations.”

The Braves brought in their minor league pitching coordinator, Dave Wallace, to oversee the big league staff while McDowell serves his de facto suspension. He has not spoken publicly about his actions other than to issue a brief statement saying he was “deeply sorry.”

Roger’s hurting,” Gonzalez said. “He really is.”

The altercation at AT&T Park in San Francisco took place last Saturday during pregame batting practice. Justin Quinn was in the stands with his wife and 9-year-old twin daughters when he noticed McDowell hectoring three men and asking them, “Are you guys a homo couple or a threesome?”

After the coach made crude sexual gestures with his hips and a bat, Quinn said he shouted, “Hey there are kids out here.” According to Quinn, McDowell said kids don’t belong at a baseball park, picked up a bat, walked up to Quinn and asked him, “How much are your teeth worth?”

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