An odious scene: Indians fans wore redface to last night’s game

437 Comments

I saw these guys on last night’s broadcast. Hat tip to Ted Berg of USA Today for getting the screen cap:

source:

We wouldn’t accept it if these guys showed up at a party in blackface. We wouldn’t cite “tradition” or “enthusiasm” and act as if it wasn’t racist for them to do so. If they wore blackface at a ballpark I am pretty confident that security would have them removed, for their safety among other reasons.

But to pull Indian redface in Cleveland? Hey, no worries. Go Tribe. Quit your complaining, Calcaterra. Indeed, I’m assuming that for even mentioning this I will be accused of being an overly-sensitive P.C. liberal who doesn’t understand that no one finds this offensive and, hey, my Native American father-in-law has no problem with it. If they decided not to go the ad hominem route they’d probably offer something like, “hey, he’s on the caps. So obviously it’s about team spirit, not racism. It’s just a cartoon character, so it’s not offensive.”

But of course it is offensive. And disgraceful. And as long as the Cleveland Indians continue to use Chief Wahoo as their mascot and primary logo, idiots like these three will believe that it is socially acceptable to do with Indians that which we would never tolerate if it was done with other races. They will be given the official cover to make specious arguments excusing their racist acts.

And of course, when you actually make yourself up like this the argument so many make — that it’s just a cartoon not meant to be a real person — is severely undermined. Here is that ugly cartoon caricature transformed into a human caricature. It’s no different — and in many ways worse — than these guys dressing up like one of the Indians from “F-Troop,” walking down the street and speaking in bad western movie Indian dialect.

I used to speculate that, based on what I saw as a decrease in the Indians’ use of Wahoo on alternate caps and at their spring training facility, that the team was gradually phasing Chief Wahoo out. I was contacted by the Indians last spring, however, and told that “there are absolutely no plans to phase out Chief Wahoo.” I would like to think that the fact that the team’s use of Wahoo is construed by some as license to engage in racist crap like this would make them reconsider that position. But I’m not holding my breath.

Nick Markakis: ‘I play a kids’ game and get paid a lot of money. How can I be disappointed with that?’

Daniel Shirey/Getty Images
16 Comments

Earlier today, the Braves inked veteran outfielder Nick Markakis to a one-year deal worth $4 million with a club option for the 2020 season worth $6 million with a $2 million buyout. Though Markakis is 35 years old, he’s coming off of a terrific season in which he played in all 162 games and hit .297/.366/.440 with 14 home runs and 93 RBI in 705 trips to the plate. Markakis had just completed a four-year, $44 million contract, so he took a substantial pay cut.

Per David O’Brien of The Athletic, Markakis asked his kids where they wanted him to play and they said Atlanta. O’Brien also asked Markakis about the pay cut. The outfielder said, “I’m not mad at all. I play a kids’ game and get paid a lot of money. How can I be disappointed with that?”

This seemingly innocuous comment by Markakis is actually damaging for his peers and for the union. Baseball as a game is indeed a “kids’ game,” but Major League Baseball is a billion-dollar business that has been setting revenue records year over year. The players have seen a smaller and smaller percentage of the money MLB makes since the beginning of the 2000’s. Furthermore, Markakis only gets paid “a lot of money” relative to, say, a first-year teacher or a clerk at a convenience store. Relative to the value of Liberty Media, which owns the Braves, and relative to the value of Major League Baseball itself, Markakis’s salary is a drop in the ocean.

That Markakis is happy to take a pay cut is totally fine, but it’s harmful for him to publicly justify that because it creates the expectation that his peers should feel the same way and creates leverage for ownership. His comments mirror those who sympathize first and foremost with billionaire team owners. They are common arguments used to justify paying players less, giving them a smaller and smaller cut of the pie. Because Markakis not only took a pay cut but defended it, front office members of the Braves as well as the 29 other teams can point to him and guilt or shame other players for asking for more money.

“Look at Nick, he’s a team player,” I envision a GM saying to younger Braves player who is seeking a contract extension, or a free agent looking to finally find a home before spring training. “Nick’s stats are as good as yours, so why should you make more money than him?”

Contrast Markakis’s approach with Yasmani Grandal‘s. Grandal reportedly turned down a four-year, $60 million contract offer from the Mets early in the offseason and settled for a one-year, $18.25 million contract with the Brewers. Per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, Grandal said on MLB Network, “I felt like part of my responsibility as a player was to respect the guys that went through this process before I did. Guys like Brian McCann, Russell Martin, Yadier Molina, These are guys who established markets and pay levels for upper-tier catchers like me. I felt like I was doing a disservice if I were to take some of the deals that were being thrown around. I wanted to keep the line moving especially for some of the younger guys that are coming up … to let them know, if you’re worthy, then you should get paid what you’re worth. That’s where I was coming from.”

Grandal’s comments are exactly what a member of a union should be saying, unapologetically. The MLBPA needs to get all of its members on the same page when it comes to discussing contracts or labor situations in general publicly. What Markakis said seems selfless and innocent — and I have no doubt he is being genuine without malice — but it could reduce the bargaining power players have across the table from ownership, which means less money. They are already being bamboozled, at least until the next collective bargaining agreement. They don’t need to be bamboozled any more.