Fox News radio host Tony Bruno recently pissed off baseball fans and immigration rights defenders alike when he went on a racist tirade against a Latino baseball player for the San Francisco Giants, Dominican-born relief pitcher Ramon Ramirez. After Ramirez hit the Philadelphia Phillies' Shane Victorino in the back with a pitch and both teams got into a fight, Bruno tweeted the following: "gutless #!@%*# Giants. Bochy is a coward for having his illegal alien pitcher hit a guy since mighty Frisco boys ..."
The moment proved to be an important opportunity for unsung heroes to speak candidly about racism.
Let's be clear, the issue here is not that Bruno was mistaken because Ramirez has a P-1 VISA like most players from Latin America who play professional ball in the United States. It was wrong because it was racist, and it would be wrong for any human being to be labeled "illegal" in any form. This is how the i-word is used to dehumanize and demonize people of color and particularly Latinos, regardless of immigration status.
Bruno's comment was not very different from the comments hurled by bigots when Mexico beat the U.S. in the Gold Cup. Except this time, Bruno had a nationally syndicated show to spread his hate and deserves to be fired for being unprofessional and stoking racial hatred.
Bruno later erased the comment, but the damage was done. But Bruce Botchy, the Giants' manager, didn't let him off that easily. "Forget the remarks about me," Bochy told the San Francisco Chronicle. "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."
Bruno issued this statement on Facebook:
My stupid and insensitive twitter post was up less than one minute before I realized it was caustic," Bruno said. "It was removed immediately and I typed a quick apology on twitter and here. Since I was doing my live radio show, I apologized more emphatically on the air, and the podcast is available on my website (tonybrunoshow.com, hour 3) for those who choose to actually get some facts to go along with the hearsay or bloggers who spread falsehoods about my apology not being 'sincere.'
Giants fans should be proud of having an awesome manager, and good for all of us who get to witness this show of integrity and calling out racism like it is. The good that came from this foul moment was also exemplified by sports fans, who also denounced Bruno's comments. From fan Ross who posted at the Big League Stew blog:
"I too am a Latino man, a Mexican man and proud of it. I used to look up to Tony Bruno an I enjoyed listening to his program with Mr. Radnich, but I will never listen to Bruno again nor will I hold him in the same regard that I used to. Bruno has shown his true colors he is another racist like Jimmy the Greek, Howard Cosel, and others on the radio and tv. And yes He should be FIRED, immediately!!!"
The Nation's Sports Editor David Zirin and author of "Bad Sports: How Owners are Ruining the Games we Love" added context to the matter, writing:
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'... In Bud Selig's baseball universe, Roberto Clemente goes unrecognized and people like Tony Bruno get national platforms to slander "illegal aliens." In other words, we can get Tony Bruno off the air, but there is a bigger fight brewing for the very soul of the National Pastime. Will baseball be a force for inclusion or exclusion? Throughout its checkered history, this game has certainly been both. Bud right now stands with Tony Bruno on the wrong side of that history.
Often when we talk to sports lovers who are willing to engage in deeper critiques on race in sports, I am reminded of Colorlines' first cover which showcased the incredible moment when Tommie Smith and John Carlos gave the black power salute at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. They were shoeless, victorious and very aware of their powerful platform.
It's so important to engage and organize people in places where as activists, we don't usually think of. There is a growing movement (really energized by Presente.org's campaign to move the MLB All Star game out of Arizona in protest of SB 1070) to engage sports fans about social justice issues that impact players, fans and the sports we love.
At Drop the I-Word we are grateful that Christopher Petrie and Zoilo Torres who run Global Rhythm Group, invited us to talk to sports fans about dropping the i-word at a host of events where they attract and engage young people by through music and athletic play. I guarantee that the people we reached through their NFL, NBA and March Madness parties were more critical about this moment in sports because of the rich dialogue we shared. The conversations we were able to have were vital.
Bochy used the power of his platform, and we love it. Join us in thanking him for taking a stand against the i-word! Thank him on Twitter by sending this tweet:
#THXBochy! Bochy @SFGiants knows the i-word is racist and doesn't stand for it! Time to @droptheiword: http://ow.ly/60ON0
Or send Bochy a thank you note on the San Francisco Giants website. And if you have have not yet signed the pledge to drop the i word, do it today.