If longtime Detroit Tigers broadcaster and ex-pitching ace Jack Morris thought that an on-air apology for a lame and offensive attempt at a joke involving Los Angeles Angels superstar Shohei Ohtani was going to be sufficient, he wasn’t sufficiently reading the room or assessing the larger, social-media-influenced cancel culture.
The Bally Sports Regional Networks has indefinitely suspended the four-time World Series winner, including one with the Tigers, in the aftermath of his ill-advised and perceived racist remark in the sixth inning of a game on Tuesday night. He is also headed to “bias training.”
When play-by-play man Matt Shepard asked Morris to weigh in on what strategy the Tigers pitchers should use against Ohtani, the Angels designated hitter, Morris replied in what apparently was supposed to be an exaggerated Asian accent or tone that “Be very, very careful.”
Morris — who must have gotten an earful, literally, from producers and execs through his TV headphones — apologized in the ninth inning, but as suggested above, this was obviously not going to be good enough in today’s environment.
“Well folks, Shohei Ohtani is coming to the plate and it’s been brought to my attention, and I sincerely apologize if I offended anybody, especially anybody in the Asian community for what I said about pitching and being careful to Shohei Ohtani. I did not intend for any offensive thing and I apologize if I did. I certainly respect and have the utmost respect for this guy and don’t blame a pitcher for walking him,” Morris said.
Jack Morris apologies before Shohei Otani's at-bat in the ninth inning. pic.twitter.com/WdCjfyfSvX
— Spencer Wheelock (@SpencerWheelock) August 18, 2021
Morris won 254 games in his Major League Baseball career, but he is taking the L on this one.
“Bally Sports Detroit is extremely disappointed with the remarks analyst Jack Morris made during last night’s Tigers game. Jack has been suspended indefinitely from Tigers broadcasts and will be undergoing bias training to educate him on the impact of his comments and how he can be a positive influence in a diverse community. We have a zero-tolerance policy for bias or discrimination and deeply apologize for his insensitive remark,” the network announced on Wednesday.
The Tigers also piled on, which has become routine in corporate America when controversies of this kind emerge.
“The Detroit Tigers take immense pride in honoring the diverse cultures that make up our players, coaching staff, front office, fan base and community. We are deeply disappointed by the comments made by Jack Morris during the broadcast last night. We fully support Bally Sports Detroit’s decision and their on-going commitment to ensure that all personnel are held to the highest standards of personal conduct.”
Ohtani took the high road about the whole furor, however. “I did see the footage, and I heard it on the video. Personally, I’m not offended. and I didn’t take anything personally. I have no say to what the Tigers wanted to do or they did. He is a Hall of Famer. He has a big influence in the baseball world so it’s kind of a tough spot,” the likely American League MVP, who is a two-way player (starting pitcher and as well as a DH) said.
Shohei Ohtani was asked about Jack Morris:
"I did see the footage and I heard it on the video. Personally, I'm not offended and I didn't take anything personally," he said. "He is a Hall of Famer. He has a big influence in the baseball world so it's kind of a tough spot." pic.twitter.com/M5s6WerXk9
— Brad Galli (@BradGalli) August 19, 2021
“Ohtani’s cool response to Morris is a refreshing departure from the swift call for repercussions from far too many athletes. Ohtani seems to have assessed the situation and didn’t think that Morris evinced any kind of racial insensitivity,” Outkick’s Alejandro Avila wrote.
Ohtani’s manager A.J. Hinch wasn’t so tolerant. “There is no place in the game for it… This sport is arguably the most diverse sport, certainly of our major sports here in the U.S., and it should be celebrated… So we need to celebrate that and certainly learn that comments like that are not only unnecessary but unwarranted.”
Tigers manager AJ Hinch said “there’s no place in the game” for Jack Morris’ comments about Shohei Ohtani pic.twitter.com/6A28faLZ82
— Brad Galli (@BradGalli) August 18, 2021
Angels Manager Joe Maddon implied it’s time to move on. “The Detroit Tigers reacted the way they wanted to. And I know Jack, and he apologized. That’s it. That’s where I’m at with the whole situation right now.”
The Asian American Journalists Association’s Sports Task Force called out Jack Morris, 66, for an “insensitive and ignorant” apology that referenced “only the words he chose but not the stereotypical, racist accent he used.”
Part of the problem with baseball on television is that broadcasters have to fill a lot of dead time with tedious or worse chatter that sometimes backfires. Arizona Diamondbacks broadcaster Bob Brenly, who managed the team to a 2001 World Series championship, voluntarily (he claimed) took a leave of absence in June after making comments about New York Mets pitcher Marcus Stroman that some considered racist.
Last month, ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith offered an extensive apology — but wasn’t canceled — for claiming that the Ohtani couldn’t be the face of MLB despite his stardom because he needs an interpreter.
A previous insensitive alleged remark by Morris is now being dredged up, which is the way these situations often play out:
A reminder: Jack Morris told my friend, the immensely talented late Washington Post sports columnist Jennifer Frey, “I only talk to women when I’m naked when they’re on top of me or I’m on top of them.” She was an intern at the time, in the clubhouse, doing her job. https://t.co/XPkk8kI7iN
— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) August 18, 2021
It remains to be seen if Jack Morris will return to the broadcast booth in the 2022 season.
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