So about that Yuli Gurriel gesture in the dugout …
If you’ve been living under a rock, let me fill you in. The 33-year-old Gurriel, a Cuban first baseman for the Houston Astros, made a racist gesture during Game 3 of the World Series, while Yu Darvish, who has Japanese and Iranian heritage, was pitching for the Dodgers.
According to ESPN senior writer Andrew Marchand, Gurriel “used his fingers to slant his eyes in a gesture that is considered offensive to people of Asian descent.”
Immediately after it happened, social media blew up, and I hoped that it wouldn’t become a huge thing. After all, we needed Yuli for the rest of the series. Oh, what a different tune I would be singing if the offender had been on the opposing team.
Yuli was suspended for five games next season. While he’ll take a hit to his paycheck – his $47.5 million contract runs through 2020 – I don’t think he’ll need to apply for food stamps anytime soon. He’s also got a World Series championship ring under his belt and can say with confidence that he helped contribute to the historic win.
Many argued that Yuli’s punishment was merely a slap on the wrist – you only learn and grow from bad behavior when the consequences really hurt. There’s no way to know whether the Astros would have gone on to take it all if the young infielder had been benched for the rest of the series, but I don’t necessarily disagree that would have been a reasonable punishment.
However, I also think that this young man did a stupid thing trying to get a laugh from his teammates. I do not believe he is a racist who wishes malice on people from other countries. Gurriel defected from Cuba in 2016 and played in the Japanese baseball league Yokohama DeNA BayStars prior to that.
But … grow up, man.
Jose Altuve is just 27 years old. He was born in 1990, for goodness sake. Alex Bregman and Carlos Correa are 23. George Springer is 28. You see these guys showing leadership and not acting a fool doing something that could jeopardize their team. Sure they dance and drink champagne and celebrate the way any winning team is expected to, but you’ve got to draw the line at racial slurs and gestures. It’s not funny and it’s not smart.
There’s something in our human nature where we resort to childish name calling when someone is overweight or has a beard or in some way looks different than we do. Making fun of someone is not necessarily racist, by definition. But it is always stupid, insensitive and immature.
The conversation between coach and player or mentor and student or teammate and teammate should be this: Professional athletes are public figures. They are role models. Now more than ever, the Houston Astros players are celebrities. Their behavior – whether it be at the club or in the dugout or at Outback Steakhouse – is highly likely to end up on video. We all should live in such a way that we don’t have to apologize if our words and actions are captured and shared with the world.
April Towery is the managing editor of The Sealy News. She can be reached at 979-885-3562 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.