On Saturday night, Fox broadcast the Royals interleague matchup with the Pirates. In the fourth inning, Bruce Chen was interviewed by Tom Verducci and Kenny Albert.
Enter Humberto Quintero.
Sure, it looked like typical clubhouse hazing, but some are upset. You see, Bruce Chen is Asian ethnically (though he was born in Panama), and Quintero’s actions were to creep up behind Chen and harken back to school yard hijinks by pulling his eyes into a squint with his fingers.
On the national stage, even.
Chen has since responded and, Chen being Chen, has handled the incident with humor and grace to downplay a situation that otherwise could have been awkward for Fox, the Royals, and the players involved.
I am proud to be of asian descent and I love the way my eyes look!I think it makes me look sexy.I am not offended by Quinteros actions
— Bruce Chen (@ChenMusic) June 10, 2012
He later added that Quintero was pointing out one of his best features.
I don’t think Quintero meant any offense towards Chen and he’s been considered somewhat of a prankster anyway (he used to have the nickname Barney Rubble in San Diego and had a Fred Flintstone poster over his locker during spring training). Baseball players are around each other and on the road for most of the year, and often they have downtime to come up with all sorts of inside jokes and to goof around. This seems derived from that but it happened to show up during a national broadcast.
The Royals likely aren’t going to bring this up anymore save for some statement that Quintero feels regret for the gesture and that it was a dugout joke.
Should he get off that easily? How much does intent matter in these kinds of situations?
It’s an issue that goes beyond just sports. My take is that, yes, it’s offensive just as it would be if Quintero came up behind anyone he didn’t know who happened to be Asian and did the same thing. He shouldn’t be off the hook and even if Chen doesn’t take offense, others have. Any discipline will be doled out in-house and we might not ever hear about the reaction of the front office.