When Miami Marlins outfielder Ichiro Suzuki reached the 3,000 hit plateau, it was a special occasion both here and in Japan. Of course, leave it to one ESPN anchor to ruin the moment.
When ESPN was initially created, ‘SportsCenter’ was developed consistent with the network’s dream: providing fans with 24 hour access to sports coverage. Over the years, the program has hosted television talent who have branched out and become larger than the show, such as Stuart Scott, Rachel Nichols, Erin Andrews, and Josh Elliot.
Yesterday, however, was not one of the show’s brighter days.
SportsCenter anchor Todd Grisham, in response to Miami Marlins Ichiro Suzuki‘s 3000th hit, tweeted out:
"As impressive as Ichiro’s 3,000 hits are, his unwillingness to learn English after 15 years in America amazes me more."
First– before even getting into his woeful apology– lets try to understand how racist this perspective is. Even if Ichiro affirmatively chose not to learn English, what would be so wrong with that? He is hired to do one job: play baseball. At no point does baseball require a language exam.
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Oh, and the mightiest swing and miss of all: Ichiro does speak English. In fact, Ichiro also speaks Spanish. Whatever language a player chooses to conduct his interviews in is up to him; multi-billion dollar conglomerates, such as ESPN, provide translators for a reason.
Next, which is probably the saddest part about this whole incident, is Grisham’s vacillation on the matter. Rather than owning up to a stupid tweet, Grisham’s immediate response is to delete it. Then, Grisham returns to Twitter:
"And BTW, yes Ichiro apparently speaks “fluent” English as I have been bombarded with. My apologies. Have only seen him with an interpreter."
I have a hard time buying into an apology that calls attention to Ichiro’s fluency of speaking. As much as I would like not to pick at grammar, the quotations around ‘fluent’ suggest that Grisham fails to understand what makes his behavior so off-putting in the first place.
To compound the matter, I take issue with Grisham drawing attention to his bombardment for being racist on twitter. He is on one of the most well-known programs in the world, the media scrutiny is warranted and an institutional hazard.
Finally, the backbreaker:
"Ironically I took Japanese in College and actually appeared on a Japanese television show! Not kidding."
ESPN needs to understand that this is a delicate issue that they, as an institution, need to address. Several Twitter followers help to draw attention to the distain people are feeling toward the network:
I have a hard time believing that ESPN has not already taken action on this; vis-a-vis telling Grisham to cool it with the ‘hot takes’ on Twitter. The reality is that the higher ups at ESPN have not apologized for this, even though they are aware of the issue.