We’ve previously touched on the inherent racism in baseball, using the way in which Latin American coaches are often described as “good” for the Latin American players, as though they’d have no impact on players of any other race, as an example. And we’ve even joked around a bit about how players from Central American countries are often described as fiery, just as white players are referred to as being gritty and African Americans are called athletic.
While there’s nothing malicious about comments of this sort, they’re certainly regrettable and originate out of laziness and ignorance. A shining example of this type of inherent racism was on display yesterday on Sportsnet Radio – FAN 590.
Shortly after yesterday’s press conference announcing Jose Bautista’s contract extension with the Toronto Blue Jays, the new multimillionaire made the media rounds, speaking with several outlets about the new deal.
As Prime Time Sports with Bob McCown and Damien Cox waited for its scheduled allotment of time with Bautista, the two hosts began talking about the Jays Dominican slugger, crediting him with being “articulate,” before talking about the team’s “increasing amount of Latino players,” suggesting that Bautista, who “speaks the language and is familiar with the culture” could be a bridge between young Latin American players and . . . well, I’m assuming the rest of the team.
The pair then went on to compare Bautista to Dion Phaneuf, the team captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs, which you would have thought to have been the most offensive thing that the pair could’ve come up with, if not for Cox’s first question for Bautista during the interview segment:
I don’t know Jose, how you get your head around $65 million. It’s such an incredible number. I don’t know what your circumstances were growing up on the island, but can you equate where you came from to where you are now, now that you’ve received this enormous contract? I mean is that something where you almost pinch yourself saying that’s where I began and here is where I am now?
To his credit, Bautista handled the question like he handled fastballs through most of last season, knocking it out of the park by politely agreeing with what Cox was suggesting before informing him that he grew up in a middle class household.
I’m not offended by Cox’s ignorance, and I doubt if Bautista was either. I’m not even certain if this was the first time the Jays starting third baseman had spoken with the newspaper and radio man since Cox raised the question of steroids with regard to his 2010 season, or if it was the first time the pair had ever spoken to one another. What grates me the wrong way is the assumption that because Bautista was from the Dominican Republic, or the island, as Cox would refer to it, he must have grown up in poverty.
This is the type of thinking, or lack thereof, that slows down humanity’s progress. That may read as being grandiose, but there should be no place for relying on these type of stereotypes and no reason that Cox couldn’t have attempted to learn more about Bautista before having an on air discussion with him.
Personally, I feel as though journalists, including those that cover sports, have a responsibility to rise up from the lowest common denominator, not cater to it. It’s one thing to suffer through the “analysis” of people who still give weight to RBI totals, but quite another to be subjected inherent racism on a sports radio station.