In the confederate confines of sports radio, casual bigotry is about as common as traffic updates. Far less common, even unprecedented, is for a manager or coach to look this in the eye and call out a member of the media’s comments as “racist.” That’s exactly what San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy did last week to nationally syndicated sports radio talker Tony Bruno, and he should be applauded for it. After Bochy’s pitcher Ramon Ramirez hit Shane Victorino of the Philadelphia Phillies last Friday, sparking a bench-clearing brawl, Bruno blew a gasket. He posted, “gutless #!@ percent*# Giants ) Bochy is a coward for having his illegal alien pitcher hit a guy.”
Ramirez of course is not an “illegal” anything. Like every one of the 30 percent of Major League players born outside the United States who aren’t citizens, he lives and works here under a P-1 visa, often referred to as an entertainment visa. But then, no human being is actually “illegal” at all. It’s just an ugly slur that’s been mainstreamed. As Gustavo Andrade the organizing director of leading immigrant rights group Casa de Maryland said to me,
“Mr. Bruno was clearly not making a factual statement about Mr. Ramirez’s immigration status; rather, he was making a derogatory comment about him based on his race. That racist slur has been actively promoted by the most vicious anti-immigrant groups in the country. It is meant to dehumanize an entire ethnic group within the United States and desensitize the public to the difficult struggles immigrants face every day. Five million children face the daily risk of becoming an orphan through the deportation of one—or both—of their parents. Mr. Bruno’s tweet was racist, ignorant and dangerous. It propagates the idea that all Latinos are somehow less than human.”
When Bochy heard about Bruno’s comments, he was incensed, saying, “Forget the remarks about me. That doesn’t bother me. For a guy to make a racist comment like that and have the ear of so many people, that bothers me. I can defend myself as a coward. I don’t know if you can defend yourself making a racist comment.”
After the initial uproar, Bruno set a land-speed record for issuing a classic “non-apology-apology” where he slammed “the sheep on facebook, twitter and blogs.” Later, Bruno wrote, “I did remove my post and apologize for my comments regarding illegal aliens. I was angry and on the air and I stand behind my comments that Bruce Bochy is a coward, as are all managers who order pitchers to throw at guys just because their pitchers can’t get a guy out. All of you people resorting to name calling are more classless and vile.” You could almost weep over the heartfelt remorse.
Assumedly one of those “more classless and vile” people is Alex Nogales, president of the National Hispanic Media Coalition who said of Bruno, “This guy is a pig. In this day and age, using this kind of language, which encourages intolerance and hate crimes, is inexcusable.”