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Gurriel's offensive gesture unleashes World Series debate about racism, political correctness

Hailey Branson-Potts, Andrea Castillo, Bill Shaikin and Amina Khan, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Baseball

HOUSTON -- The world was watching when Yuli Gurriel made a racially charged gesture during Friday's World Series game.

It came after a moment of triumph: The Houston Astros first baseman had just hit a home run off of Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Yu Darvish. He returned to the Astros' dugout, where he put his fingers to the sides of his face and lifted the corners of his eyes -- a "slanted eyes" gesture widely regarded as a racist mockery of Asians.

Gurriel also used the word "chinito," or "Chinese boy," in reference to Darvish, who is of Iranian and Japanese descent.

The episode, caught on video and repeated endlessly on television and social media, opened up a new heated conversation about race and identity in professional sports, which has already been grappling with NFL players taking knees during the national anthem.

Many found Gurriel's antics as juvenile and insulting as they were sadly familiar.

"It just felt like, 'Man, again?' Like, we're so used to this," Jason Chu, a Chinese-American rapper based in Los Angeles. "People don't even pause. They think that this is acceptable, socially, to target Asian-Americans in this way, or Asians in general."

Chu said trash talk is a routine part of competition, but Gurriel's behavior was offensive because it mocked Darvish for being Asian.

Well-known Asian-Americans, including Los Angeles chef Roy Choi and actor Daniel Dae Kim, spoke out against Gurriel. Kim pointed out that the Gurriel incident was not the first time that slurs and stereotypes have been used against players in Major League Baseball.

"Maybe Gurriel will change that," Kim said in a tweet to a Los Angeles Times reporter.

On Saturday, Gurriel apologized for his behavior, saying in a statement that he made "an offensive gesture that was indefensible. ... I deeply regret it. I would particularly like to apologize to Yu Darvish, a pitcher that I admire and respect."

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