Last Wednesday, San Francisco Giants pitcher Derek Holland appeared on MLB Network’s Intentional Talk with Kevin Millar and Chris Rose. In the interview he was accompanied by the team’s massage therapist Haro Ogawa in what would turn out to be a pathetic reinvention of the worn out trope of the stupid minority sidekick. During the “news” piece, Mr. Ogawa is used merely as a prop for Mr. Holland in a dehumanizing skit reinforcing the foreignness of Mr. Ogawa. It should be noted that Mr. Ogawa, being an immigrant, may have perceived this differently from an Asian American who has experienced discrimination on the basis of the caricatures portrayed in the skit. This dehumanization feeds into the anti-immigrant attitudes growing more prevalent in this country, and for Major League Baseball to perpetuate these stereotypes is inexcusable.
What is particularly disappointing about this is that it comes less than a year after Yuli Gurriel was widely condemned for his behavior in last year’s World Series mocking pitcher Yu Darvish. At that time he was let off with a fine and suspension to be served after the end of the World Series. Major League Baseball demonstrated its unwillingness to take anti-Asian discrimination seriously then by delaying the suspension, and now as might be expected, anti-Asian racism has returned. It is worth noting the San Francisco Giants organization, despite serving one of the largest numbers of Japanese American baseball fans, faced controversy last year also when their San Jose minor league affiliate published an offensive promotional tweet for Japanese Heritage night.
The fact that this case is not just a player’s individual behavior, but also involves MLB Network reporters who stood by and allowed the skit to continue and management that allowed the skit to air, is also of concern. As representatives of the organization directly, it is the responsibility of the interviewers and management to stand up to racism, which they failed to do. The exploitation of an employee in this manner raises significant employment concerns that the San Francisco Giants must also address.
We call on Commissioner Manfred to hold true to his promise to address these issues in the wake of Yuli Gurriel last year. In initial conversations with Major League Baseball representatives over the weekend, we are hopeful that Major League Baseball will address this more proactively and as the broader problem that it represents in the organization. We look forward to working with the commissioner’s office to increase awareness of anti-Asian discrimination in Major League Baseball and work towards eliminating all forms of bias and discrimination in the offices, clubhouses, playing fields, and the stadiums of baseball.