Photo Source: Bob Levey/Getty Images North America
The last two weeks have produced two incidents that are unfortunate reflections of the times we currently live in. At the NFL owners’ meeting in New York last week, Houston Texans’ owner Bob McNair made a comment about “the inmates running the prison” that was construed as a reference to the season long protests orchestrated by a handful of NFL players. Simply put, the protesting NFL players are looked upon as the inmates bringing unrest to the league by not dutifully standing for the national anthem.
Photo Source: Justin Heiman/Getty Images North America
On Friday, a second incident occurred, this time in a different sport. Houston Astros’ first baseman Yuli Gurriel (pictured, above) received a five game suspension to start the 2018 season. Gurriel made a racially insensitive gesture in the dugout after hitting a second inning home run against Los Angeles Dodgers’ pitcher Yu Darvish. Gurriel pulled the sides of his eyes downward, the ultimate slight of the Japanese born Darvish, as well as Asians everywhere.
On Saturday, McNair explained that his comment referred to the relationship between the league office and team ownership. McNair and Gurriel each apologized for their actions. And there’s where the reprehension is created. I can’t imagine either of them being truly apologetic for their actions. McNair’s affiliation with President Donald Trump is in direct opposition with the stance that kneeling NFL players are taking. In September, Trump referred to kneeling NFL players in a pejorative manner.
I really don’t have to go into how disrespectful and reprehensible Gurriel’s action was to any person with true self respect and respect for others. As a Cuban immigrant, it would seem reasonable that Gurriel would be sensitive towards Darvish. If someone made fun of Gurriel’s accent, that would be a problem. His lack of sensitivity is a real disappointment.
McNair is a billionaire that won’t suffer any financial repercussions for his remark. Gurriel will lose five game checks to begin the 2018 season, which will not cripple him financially. However, McNair and Gurriel’s respective apologies were self serving because of the social backlash contained within the aftermath of their incidents. They would have been better off doubling down on their seemingly genuine in the moment expressions.
McNair and Gurriel’s sentiments are protected under the First Amendment right to freedom of speech and freedom of expression (making what they did legal, albeit reprehensible). Expressing those type of sentiments within an America striving to project an image of unity and love for all people to the rest of the world isn’t a good look.
Whether or not public opinion accepts the apologies tendered by McNair and Gurriel is irrelevant. We can only hope that these incidents serve as a teachable moment for all of us in an effort to promote sensitivity towards those different from us.