In an interview with HBO’s Andrea Kremer, Gary Sheffield said the New York Yankees do not treat black and white players the same. Kenny Lofton has corroborated Sheffield’s story, and Sheffield bets Tony Womack will as well.
“Black players had an issue with (Manager) Joe Torre,” Sheffield stated. “They weren’t treated like everybody else. Even I got called out in a couple of meetings that I thought was unfair.”
Embarrassingly, team announcers Joe Girardi, Michael Kay, and Ken Singleton scrambled to the organization’s, and especially Torre’s, defense. Girardi, Kay, and Singleton spent the entire 7th inning defending Torre against not allegations but insinuations that he was a racist. The announcers called Sheffield’s comments “really, really off-base,” citing as their evidence the positive relationships Torre has had with men of color such as Mariano Rivera and Darryl Strawberry (two players who were successful during their tenures in New York City). The use of this example to prove their point illustrated that these sideshow commentators are even more clueless about racism than they are about baseball.
The announcers went on to call Sheffield’s allegations a “very unfortunate choice of words.” They were so busy debunking insinuations that Torre was racist that they barely noticed when the Toronto Blue Jays put two men on base and were threatening to rally.
“It just doesn’t seem right,” the announcers moaned.
Tell me about it.
If fighting racism–whether intentional or falsely perceived–“doesn’t seem right” then what DOES seem right? One can infer from the announcers’ ethnocentric dialog that their position is as follows: It is the responsibility of the black man–NOT of the white man–to maintain a friendly, comfortable atmosphere for everyone. If a black person feels discriminated against it is his job to shut up and take it. Under no circumstances is he to mention that he may be struggling. He must keep his feelings to himself.
In the post-9/11 era of “zero tolerance,” Jackie Robinson’s tribulations are more relevant than ever!
Joe Torre handled the accusations better than anyone else. He kept quiet, an implicit apology, and perhaps all Sheffield was looking for.
Torre’s prejudices probably were not intentional, and may even have been a figment of Sheffield’s imagination. But the power to define racism should always reside with its victims, not its perpetrators. Same with the power to define rape–it doesn’t matter whether or not the rapist considered it consensual!