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Gurriel, from Cuba, had just returned to the dugout after hitting a home run off Darvish, when broadcast cameras picked him up using his fingers to pull his eyes back in a racist mocking gesture rarely seen outside elementary school playgrounds. Others interpreted his mouth to be saying “Chino”. The gesture was picked up by social media and flew around the world faster than Cody Bellinger swings at bad pitches.
The broadcast that went out to Asian countries showed Darvish and his interpreter discussing the matter in the Dodgers dugout shortly afterward. Darvish can be seen putting his fingers to his face in the same manner as Gurriel.
After the game, Gurriel made a half-hearted apology:
“I didn’t want to offend anybody. I don’t want to offend him or anybody in Japan. I have a lot respect. I played in Japan.”
“In Cuba, we call everybody who’s from Asia, ‘China.’ … I know it is offensive to them and they don’t like that, but I didn’t mean to do it.” – Yuli Gurriel
This amounts to the old cop-out, “Of course I’m not racist, some of my best friends are chinos ( even though I know they’re offended by the term and I use it anyway).” Context is everything. Gurriel was clearly making fun of Darvish. His empty apology didn’t even address him pulling his eyes back and having a good laugh.
On the bright side in all of this, Yu Darvish took the high road. He called Gurriel’s actions “disrepctful” and said, “He made a mistake. He’ll learn from it. We’re all human beings.” according to tweets from the LA Times Andy McCullough. Darvish later tweeted on his own account that “No one is perfect.”
Major League Baseball may not be perfect, but we’re all waiting to see if it’s consistent. MLB Commisioner Rob Manfred is expected to speak with Gurriel before Saturday’s game, and any discipline could be immediate. Players Kevin Pillar and Matt Joyce were both suspended for using homophobic slurs.
This is different, sure. It’s especially different because it happened under the glare of the World Series, and the world at large. Will Manfred suspend Gurriel in the middle of the series? Will he suspend him, but delay it until next season? Or will MLB take the high road as well?