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Torii Hunter's Statement

Mar 10, 2010, 7:27 PM EDT

Torii Hunter has released a statement on his website. I won’t reproduce the whole thing here — it’s long and you should read it in its entirety in its context — but this is the part that I consider to be most significant:

We all come from different places and backgrounds. Coming from Pine
Bluff, Ark., my hometown, is no different than being a kid from San
Pedro de Macoris in the Dominican Republic. We all share the common
bond of a love of baseball, and it pulls us together on the field and
in the clubhouse.

What troubles me most was the word “impostors” appearing in
reference to Latin American players not being black players. It was the
wrong word choice, and it definitely doesn’t accurately reflect how I
feel and who I am.

What I meant was they’re not black players; they’re Latin American
players. There is a difference culturally. But on the field, we’re all
brothers, no matter where we come from, and that’s something I’ve
always taken pride in: treating everybody the same, whether he’s a
superstar or a young kid breaking into the game. Where he was born and
raised makes no difference.

Despite the conversations about racial identity that have sprung up in the comments, the original reason I posted this morning was not to open that can of worms. Rather, it was because I thought Hunter’s use of the term “impostors” and “imitator” was completely out of line. I don’t think anyone in baseball is trying to pass themselves as anything other than a ballplayer, and suggesting as much is an insult to Latin American players who didn’t get where they are by pretending to be anything other than what they are. Well, and sometimes pretending to be younger versions of themselves, but that’s another conversation.

Anyway, unless the USA Today reporter seriously misquoted Hunter, I view the above statement as more of a retreat than a clarification — and the passive voice regarding the word impostor “appearing” in his statement is a bit telling — but that’s fine. We all say dumb things sometimes, and we should all be allowed to get a mulligan. Hunter’s a good guy and he deserves a mulligan too.

Still, I have to note that something is absent from Hunter’s statement, and that’s anything relating to the other part of his comments in USA Today with which I had a problem: his theory — he actually said “we have a theory,” apparently referring to U.S.-born blacks — that Major League Baseball has an active agenda to overlook U.S. born blacks in favor of foreign born players. Unless Hunter (or anyone else) has some evidence for such an agenda on the part of Major League Baseball, I think it’s a pretty irresponsible charge. Frankly, I’m rather surprised Hunter didn’t address it here.

At any rate, that appears to be that. Unless someone decides it isn’t that, at which point I’ll write something else that will rile everyone up again.

  1. Beau - Mar 10, 2010 at 7:42 PM

    This is certainly one of the more offensive things Torii has ever said, but he’s had diarrhea of the mouth for many, many years.

  2. Old Gator - Mar 10, 2010 at 7:52 PM

    Kinda reminds me of what Tom Lehrer said on the back of one of his albums – can’t recall if it was An Evening Wasted… or That Was the Year That Was – but it went something like, “If anyone is offended by anything I write, I am prepared not only to retract it but to deny under oath that I ever said it.” Sounds to me like Tori might have been reading the back of the album jacket on his drive home from the interview.
    Come on, Tori, cut the bullshit. It’s National Brotherhood Week.

  3. Joey B - Mar 10, 2010 at 8:26 PM

    “We all say dumb things sometimes, and we should all be allowed to get a mulligan.”
    I’m down with that. The shame of it is that a white player would’ve been run out of the league for calling Dominicans ‘imposters’, but that’s society’s issue and not Torii’s. Back to BB.

  4. ClementeLegend - Mar 10, 2010 at 8:27 PM

    Why does CC Sabathia get off the hook? He made the same comment while being a Cleveland Indian. Except in fairness to Sabathia, he didn’t drop the imposter word. I’ll find a link…

  5. Craig Calcaterra - Mar 10, 2010 at 8:34 PM

    I didn’t let CC off the hook when he said it in 2007. I wrote about it then. A few other people did too.

  6. ClementeLegend - Mar 10, 2010 at 8:49 PM

    No, no… I wasn’t picking on you Craig, but confused why Sabathia’s comments didn’t get more focused on back in 2007 by the media. I guesss because he didn’t go as far as calling black Latinos “imposters”.
    Foolish action by Torii Hunter, he just dropped the ball.
    But here is Sabathia’s comment from back in 2007:
    ” That’s amazing. That’s unbelievable,” he said. “I don’t think people understand that there is a problem. They see players like Jose Reyes and Carlos Delgado and just ASSUME that they’re black.”
    Both Torii Hunter and CC Sabathia need a history lesson about the Americas in the Western Hemisphere. Blacks are in the Dominican or Cuba. They were brought there as slaves by the Spaniards (In modern day, “Hispanics”).

  7. Professor Dave - Mar 10, 2010 at 9:49 PM

    Sorry to repeat myself from the previous thread, but in response to “ClementeLegend,” it’s important to understand that the definition of “Black” is highly contested, and the relationship between Latin American descendants of Africans and “African-Americans” is disputed. There’s a reason that both CC and Torii feel this way, even if you or I might point to evidence of shared African ancestry. These guys know, believe me, about the history of the slave trade. But they define “black” in a not atypical way, and it excludes David Ortiz and Jose Reyes and whoever else.
    More importantly, though, is the point Craig seems to be trying to make – it’s the conspiracy language that shows up a lot in contemporary black discourse. Of course, historically, there HAVE been centers of power that have worked hard to disenfranchise and repress blacks! But there’s no reason to think the mlb is doing anything but trying to find the best ballplayers for the lowest cost. Right now, there’s no consistent African-American pipeline. Hunter, who is trying to create such a pipeline, seems frustrated and prone to passive voice constructions.

  8. scatterbrian - Mar 10, 2010 at 9:53 PM

    I’m starting to think that Hunter doesn’t or didn’t really understand the definition of “imposters” when he made his comment. I think he really meant that MLB front offices sign Latin American players–particularly, dark-skinned Latin American players–and pass them off as American-born black players in an effort to appear diverse. Not that I agree with that viewpoint in the least, that’s just how I’m interpreting Hunter after reading his initial statements and this quasi retraction.
    state turtle

  9. Wooden U. Lykteneau - Mar 11, 2010 at 8:00 AM

    “That Was The Year That Was” – now, excuse me while I go poisoning pigeons in the park…

  10. Joe G - Mar 11, 2010 at 8:26 AM

    Yeah, it is either that or Torii thinks that mlb teams should actively promote hispanic and african-american players differently, and should make it clear to everyone that while (for example), Torii Hunter is an American of African descent, Vladimir Guerrero is a(n?) Hispanic of African descent.
    Either way, I think he realizes he screwed up and though his explanation may not be satisfactory to everyone, it is an explanation nonetheless.

  11. Randy - Mar 12, 2010 at 4:46 PM

    What would happen if a Latino, Asian or Caucasian player use the word “negro” and other derogatory comments during an interview?
    Ignorance and racism are “close friends”,… and racism exists in all cultures and ethnic groups, including African-Americans..

  12. carlos gonzalez - Mar 13, 2010 at 10:47 AM

    It is a shame that a player and a person like Torii Hunter,whom had alway been treated with respect by fans and player alike.come up soundind so stupid. who is he to say that David Ortiz, Jose Reyes, Carlos Delgado,Roberto Clemente,Felipe Alou and many other latino are not he blind?

  13. David - Mar 18, 2010 at 11:41 AM

    The whole thing is idiotic. I don’t know what Torii Hunter’s (or, for that matter, C.C. Sabathia’s) level of education is. I think that “his clarification” (seems to me, obviously word-smithed by someone trying to do damage control) should not be examined with the degree of care as it is.
    Ozzie Guillen’s response is perhaps the best analysis necessary. The idea that professional baseball is conspiring to “replace” U.S.-born black players with low-cost Latino ones…does it pass the sniff test to anyone? First principles – WHY would teams, who stand to make millions of dollars, intentionally overlook black prospects? Is it safer to recruit in places like Venezuela than in Chicago? And, let’s assume Hunter is correct – that there is at least some action to do this to hold down costs.
    What if you were, say, the Pittsburgh Pirates, who have not had a winning season in nearly 20 years? If you thought there was an un-tapped reserve of highly talented players, one that no other team was really looking it, would YOU ignore it? These players, if Hunter’s argument is carried to its logical conclusion, are not being scouted. They are not being signed. Presumably because they do not have agents like Scott Boras. The major league minimum salary is mandated, and it is hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. For some of these potential athletes, according to Torii Hunter, living in dangerous inner-city environments, the alternative to a $450,000 annual salary is realistically bleak – no job, or a job with very, very low pay.
    Which would you choose?
    It all boils down to a statistical argument, and the fact that American black players constitute 8 per cent of MLB rosters, when blacks are just a bit more than 10 per cent of the population does NOT indicate any real disparity. And certainly not when contrasted to the reality that the NBA is more than 2/3 black.
    Is there a conspiracy in the NBA to use European “impostors” to replace white American players to hold down salaries?
    The idea is laughable. Much like Hunter’s

  14. MarkoAntonio - Apr 24, 2010 at 8:30 PM

    CC Sabathia is one of my favorite pitchers I’m a Yankee fan of course but his and torii hunters comments are ridicoulous. Carlos Delgado identifies himself as black puerto rican. Is he not black because he speaks Spanish? Is he not of African descent? Clearly he is!!! Bernie Williams Robinson Cano Manny Ramirez with his dredlocks and kincky hair. But that’s their stupid ass opinion.

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