SAN FRANCISCO – The Japanese American Citizens League issued the following statement on Aug. 27.
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 [Rob] 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.
Holland, who spoke in a mock Asian accent and bowed repeatedly during his appearance with Ogawa, whom he introduced only as his “hype man,” issued the following statement:
“I want to make sure it’s clear that was all on me. I don’t want anyone else being directed with MLB Network or ‘Intentional Talk,’ I think this is directly on me. Me and Haro were just doing a bit, we didn’t expect it to turn out the way that it did. Obviously it was not meant to be that way so I want to make sure that anybody, or I shouldn’t say anybody, everybody for what I’ve done and what I’ve caused.
“Now it’s become a distraction to the team. I don’t want that. I don’t want to have offended anybody. I apologize for doing that and again, I’ve apologized to Haro and Taira [Uematsu, Giants bullpen catcher], I’ve talked to them both. They understand we were just doing a bit but it was too far.
“With that, I want to make sure that everybody understands that those were not the intentions. If we’re going to blame anybody, it needs to be me. I want to be held accountable for everything that I’ve done and caused with all of this. It’s embarrassing what I did. I was just trying to have some fun.
“Haro and I [were]just entertaining and just trying to take it to a different level and make the interview a little more exciting and I obviously crossed the line with that. Those were not the intentions and I apologize for what has come about of this and definitely directing negativity toward the organization, my teammates and obviously Haro and Taira.
“I want to make sure everybody understands this is all on me and I apologize for what I have done. Whatever I have to do to take care of the situation, I will do it.”
Giants spokesman Matt Chisholm told Deadspin, “The Giants organization does not condone that type of behavior in any way. We spoke to Derek regarding his interview yesterday and he completely understands the severity of the situation and he apologizes if it offended anyone. That was not his intention at all, but he’s taking full responsibility for it. It was not his intention at all to embarrass Haro.”
In the San Jose Giants incident last September, the team’s Twitter account posted a looping video of three men on the field wearing happi coats. One was doing martial arts kicks, another was bowing with his hands pressed together, and the third was fanning himself. The video was removed amid backlash from fans, one of whom tweeted, “This is super racist and tacky.”
Tom Oshidari of the San Jose JACL told CBS SF Bay Area at the time, “They’ll just make these mistakes over and over again. It’s something that we’ll just have to keep fighting.”
The team tweeted an apology that read, in part, “Unfortunately our message on social media was tone-deaf… and we deeply apologize to those we have offended and apologize that our content released on social media did not represent the intention and spirit of the event.”