Today In Inherent Racism

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.

Comments (29)

  1. Dustin, I couldn’t agree more.
    If statements like that were made on air or in print in reference to any other industry there would be wide-spread outrage. Sports writers are allowed to get away with this…and get defensive when members of the non-mainstream media call them out on it.

    I’m sure you can expect to be blocked from Damien Cox’s twitter feed now.

  2. Yeah… agreed. I remember hearing that yesterday and thinking, “Ugh…” then laughing out loud in my car when Bautista gave his answer. Growing up on the “island,” just… ugh.

  3. Excellent post. What a condescending, patronizing, assinine comment that was by Cox.”Can you equate..?” Ask that to the next white kid you interview from Dubuque, fool.

  4. Yeah that was a pretty brutal question. The Island. He probably forgot where Jose came from, and just assumed that it must have been from some island somewhere.

    The more I listen to Jose Bautista speak, the more I feel hope that he can really keep up at a level close to last years. He really seems like a pretty decent and humble guy considering he is currently considered one of the games elite hitters and just got a $65-million payday… And all that despite, you know, coming from poverty… on an island somewhere hot…

    Parkes, great article. Stereotypes and generalizations in baseball writing are turning into on of my biggest annoyances!

  5. I hate Damien Cox, but I don’t think that question is worth making a blog post about…

  6. It’s not the inherent racism on display here that aggravates me. It’s the fact that Cox – who is supposedly a “journalist” – couldn’t be bothered to do simplest amount of research on the guy he’s interviewing. That right there, to me at least, is a far greater example of unprofessionalism than any of his probably innocent – though horribly misguided – comments.

  7. Excellent post. Very few people talk about this stuff and I’m glad you do.

  8. I don’t think racism is the right word for making assumptions about people based upon their country of origin. Xenophobia is probably better, even though it is usually used to describe a hatred of of a certain culture or ‘foreigners’ in general.

    Simply asking a question like ‘what was it like growing up in the Dominican Republic’ could have saved the reporter from making this sort of assumption. As Jay wrote, a little research would have done the same trick.

  9. Racism is exactly what this is. Xenophobia is, literally, the fear of foreigners or strangers and therefore probably doesn’t really apply here unless Cox is afraid of Bautista.

  10. I’m calling BS on this one. Since when is getting blanked about political correctness? NewsFlash: DR is considered a poor country. they rely mainly on tourism dollars as the main source of funds for their national treasury – hency there is alot of poverty on the island.

    I don’t know how in the world you construe that with racism but honestly you need to dial back on the political correctness in this situation – you are clearly nitpicking.

  11. 1990 GDP per capita
    # 14 Canada: $20,661.07 per capita
    # 109 Dominican Republic: $969.69 per capita
    Is it really that asinine of a question??

  12. I went to university with a bunch of guys from “the island”. They had more money than me, lived better, traveled during the summers while I worked and went on to nice careers in banking and law. I’ve been to DR and yes, there’s much poverty but there’s also a middle and upper class, like most of the islands. But I guess if your only experience with people from the DR are baseball players and guys who work at the resorts whose life you think your changing with your $1 US tips, then I can see how you might be prone to think that Cox’s question isn’t racist.

    Sports writers, most of them anyways, seem to go after hackneyed cliches as though they’re some kind of truth they just thought up themselves. It’s not just racism, it’s lazy, thoughtless journalism. Good for you guys for calling him on it, and good for Bautista for staying above it. They may have missed on what he’ll be like with his bat (I kind of think it’ll work out okay), but they’re clearly right about his character.

  13. @Woody
    Yes. What you have suggested is akin to asking a black player what it was like growing up “in the hood“ because you saw the stats on household income broken down by visible minority status.

    As the above poster points out, international students tend to come from families that have the money to pay int`l student fees. Certainly, there are (many) exceptions, but knowing one way or the other means getting to know that person, rather than making assumptions.

    JoBau has been here for over two years. Again, this comes down to Cox being a moron. What was said was stupid and arguably racist, but it doesn`t necessarily make him a racist. It does, however, make a strong case for him being an `ìgnoramous`.

  14. well technically everything on the earth is an island. We’re all surrounded by water.

  15. Great post. This is exactly what I thought when I heard this asinine question and I don’t think Damien Cox even got that he was offside. Of course Cox treats everyone as if they were Gord Stellick who doesn’t sem to mind the constant belittling. Anyway, Sportsnet bring back Stephen Brunt, he wouldn’t ask anything this dumb and would call out McCown if he did. Sportsnet should have let Cox go to TSN.

  16. Appreciate your lofty goals for journalism. Ever watch local TV news, especially in the US? In my market, achieving the lowest common denominator would be a helluva stretch.

  17. Yeah, to be honest I didn’t really see it til Parkes pointed it out…. And to be honest it doesn’t bother me either. If a dumbass American assumes I live in an igloo and I am a hoser pothead that watches nothing but hockey… I wouldn’t be mad that he got 2 of those wrong ( I have a house and I also watch baseball, football and porn).
    Ignorant? Yes. Inherantly racist? I suppose (especially since I was told it was). Worth getting worked up about? Not in my opinion.

    Damn, I wasted all this time when all I really wanted to say was a message to Damien Cox: Why the fuck did you and your huge head not go TSN? At least you wouldn’t be fucking up Bpbcats show on a daily basis… Woulda been much better if it was Brunt cohosting instead.

  18. What producer in his right mind would trade Brunt for Cox? No decent journalist makes assumptions of any kind, let alone something that freakin lazy. Except for Brunt, that show is all about the colossal egos of the hosts, so Cox should fit in just fine.

  19. The show sucks, and the more I think about it – it is not necessarily even a “racist” comment as much as demonstrative of the biases/assumptions Cox makes. DR = poor, no one learns english until they “make it”, etc. It is arguable that white players from non-English speaking countries are not called “articulate” – but my guess is that there are plenty of Don Cherry-wanna-bes out there who say just as stupid crap about hockey players and their command of the English language.

    I’m sure someone has probably studied this. Which would actually make this post ridiculous and shooting for the hip. Sloppy journalism, even.

    Further, if you want to criticize McCown et al for their insensitivities, listen to how they speak about women. It is disgusting and always has been. It is obvious they had to undergo some sensitivity training at some point, but it seems as though after the latest shuffle of personalities (I have no idea what the politics of sportsnet/fan are) they have been back to their old tricks. Andrew Krystal is pretty much a compelte asshole when it comes to this, but McCown has historically been not much better.

    Anyway, Cito thought McCown was a racist. Maybe he ran around calling everyone a racist. I generally tend to think he had more grounds to do so than Parkes does here calling Cox “inherently racist” – even if I tend to agree with the conclusion, the evidence presented is not convincing.

  20. @yt: Do you even know what inherent racism means?

  21. I think they missed the boat when they dropped Mary Ormsby as a regular, or she dropped them. Kicked the retarded middle-aged frat party vibe to the curb where it belonged.

    And that shit they talk about free food from Boston Pizza Kelsey McShitty’s every Friday. Fuck, free chicken wings — tell Mom I’ve hit the big time. Guh.

  22. That’s twice now that Jose’s taken the high road with Cox. Hopefully the next time Cox does this sort of thing (and rest assured he will), Jose will try using a hockey cliche on him and “knock out some chiclets”. Nah, I can’t see it either. He’s too classy. Also Damien was with TSN on their Sunday morning “The Reporters with Dave Hodge” program. It’s a pity that Rogers wooed him away and made him the primary co-host on Prime Time Sports. Dan Shulman went to TSN, while Sportsnet gets…Damien. Ugh.

  23. @Kevin: Mary Ormsby’s actually gonna be on the round table today. Her and Brunt are probably my two favourites and I think (if I heard right) they’re both on. They both put the others to shame. One wonders where she is on the depth chart for round tables…10th? behind Cox, Brunt, Kirke, Grange, Shannon, Perkins, Elliott, Griffin, Blair, Faulds, Wilner etc etc.

  24. I can understand the argument that this was lazy journalism or a poor assumption, but I don’t think it’s right to equate it with racism.

    I understand that Cox seemed to be making an assumption that Bautista came from a monetarily poor home and was surprised that he spoke English well – and perhaps technically that is ‘inherent racism’. But throwing around the term ‘racism’ is an extremely serious allegation (and rightly so, it’s deplorable).

    I think it’s clear to anyone who heard the interview that there was no malice or disdain for Hispanic people evident in Cox’s questions. Just a couple of poor, lazy and perhaps ignorant assumptions.

    Considering the weight of the term ‘racism’, I just don’t think it’s right to throw that around in this situation. ‘Bad journalism’ or ‘ignorance’ would have been much more appropriate.

    And, by the way, many of your posts at DJF (which I have enjoyed) are far from what you seem to be expecting from Cox and McCown. Stuff like how to fuck girls at Jays games (I believe that was you – apologies if I’m wrong)? I know you’re kidding around, but when I read this:

    “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 made me roll my eyes. You have CERTAINLY written your share of offensive stuff at that blog. Frankly, FAR more offensive than assuming a guy from the Dominican Republic grew up in a poor household in my opinion. But, claiming you are racist or sexist based on those would be inappropriate, I think.

    Like I said, I enjoy your writing, and I know you were joking around at DJF. But considering how serious a claim of racism is, I don’t believe it’s appropriate here (with the ‘inherent’ disclaimer or not).

    All that aside – like I said, I enjoy your stuff. Just disagree with you here.

  25. I don’t really care how Cox’s comments are percieved, I just do not like the sound of his voice or his looks (I don’t know why, maybe because he just looks so out of place on the HNC broadcasts) his questions are usually just as stupid there as well…

  26. There is a difference between racism and ignorance. I would say that he’s displaying ignorance there not racism. That doesn’t mean it’s acceptable.

  27. I heard this too and dismissed it as Damien Cox being his usual moron self.

    I don’t know if I would call it racism or xenophobia. Maybe xenoblivious.

  28. @ james. the drunk jays fans guide to punching kitty at the ballpark.

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