Houston Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel will not face suspension during the World Series following being caught by TV cameras pulling back on his eyes and saying, “chinito”—Spanish slang for “little Chinese boy”—in reference to Dodgers starting pitcher Yu Darvish after hitting a home run.
Commissioner Rob Manfred announced the decision after meeting with Gurriel on Saturday, hours before Game 4 of the series. It was also announced that Gurriel will be serving a five-game suspension without pay to start the 2018 season, and that Gurriel will also undergo sensitivity training during the offseason.
When asked his reasoning for moving the suspension to next year, Manfred said he wanted the punishment to come with the loss of salary. In addition, he said the penalty should fall to the wrongdoer and not the whole team because it was “unfair to punish the other 24 players on the Astros roster.” Manfred also used his conversation with Darvish and Darvish’s desire to “move forward” as a way to explain his decision to not suspend Gurriel during the series.
The Astros released a statement saying they were “surprised and disappointed” with Gurriel’s actions, and that they fully supported Manfred’s decision. Gurriel also released a statement.
Yuli Gurriel issues apology for his gesture. pic.twitter.com/2mdAVwmJ4a— Jose de Jesus Ortiz (@OrtizKicks) October 28, 2017
Initially, Gurriel responded to questions about the incident after Game 3 by expressing ignorance about the offensiveness of his actions.
“The truth is, I don’t know, I didn’t know how offensive it was. What I do know is that it wasn’t my intention,” Gurriel said in Spanish postgame. “I really feel, I feel … I’m sorry because there were people that felt really offended, and that was in no way my intention, so I’m really sorry.” Manfred said that, based on his conversation with Gurriel on Saturday, he felt Gurriel understood that “both the language and the gesture were offensive.”
In Latin American culture, the term “chinito” can be used endearingly, but that does not preclude it from being a racial slur, and it does not excuse Gurriel from being in the wrong when he directed it at Darvish. So while context is important, as some articles sought to point out last night, its relevance should be to understand cultural difference in an effort to change it, not to explain away Gurriel’s action.
For his part, Darvish said postgame he was bothered by it, but that it was a learning experience. Teammate and outfielder Kike Hernández said he spoke with Darvish about the incident and described Darvish as “extremely disappointed, as expected.” Darvish posted a tweet afterward, saying he believed what Gurriel had done was “not right.”
MLB has suspended players for using racial slurs and hateful speech before. Earlier this season, Blue Jays outfielder Kevin Pillar was suspended—immediately—for two games after using a homophobic slur toward an opponent. Manfred’s decision to not take immediate action with Gurriel seems to suggest that a World Series game—and series—takes priority over a clear, offensive action by a player.