The Associated Press reports that Los Angeles Angels center fielder Torii Hunter “insists he meant no harm toward Latino players when he referred to them as ‘impostors.'” Hunter’s controversial remarks were made two weeks ago during a series of USA Today roundtables about baseball:
People see dark faces out there, and the perception is that they’re African American,” Los Angeles Angels center fielder Torii Hunter says. “They’re not us. They’re impostors.”
“As African-American players, we have a theory that baseball can go get an imitator and pass them off as us,” Hunter says. “It’s like they had to get some kind of dark faces, so they go to the Dominican or Venezuela because you can get them cheaper. It’s like, ‘Why should I get this kid from the South Side of Chicago and have Scott Boras represent him and pay him $5 million when you can get a Dominican guy for a bag of chips?’ I’m telling you, it’s sad.”
Now Hunter is describing his remarks as a “wrong word choice” and what he “meant to say” is that “there is a difference culturally. But on the field, we’re all brothers.” In an entry posted on his Angels-sponsored blog, Hunter wrote:
I am hurt by how the comments attributed to me went off the track and misrepresented how I feel. My whole identity has been about bringing people together, from my neighborhood to the clubhouse. The point I was trying to make was that there is a difference between black players coming from American neighborhoods and players from Latin America. In the clubhouse, there is no difference at all. We’re all the same.
USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, the journalist who quoted Hunter, said he spoke to Hunter after his blog post went up and that Hunter affirmed, “I’m not going to apologize. I told the truth. I’m sorry if I used the wrong choice of words, but impostor is not a racist word.” Meanwhile, Latino sports journalist Tony Menendez wrote, “Torii Hunter next time should think what he wants to say or get a dictionary…I really would like to know if on a similar interview a Latino player in a similar context would have said the word negro and then calling them ‘impostors’ in the majors.”
However, many Latinos in the baseball industry didn’t take Hunter’s comments to heart. “To me, it was a funny context. I know what he wanted to say, what he meant to say. I hope Latin players, and whoever speaks Spanish, and whoever feels Latino, doesn’t take this context in a different way,” said Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, a Venezuelan. Angels broadcaster Jose Mota, a Dominican, said he wasn’t offended and that “no Latin player would be offended either.” Hunter’s long-time agent cited Hunter’s impressive “record of giving,” which includes providing college scholarships to students and fostering youth inner-city baseball.
For the record, Alex Rodriguez, a third base player of Dominican descent, tops the list of the 35 Highest-Paid Major League Baseball players, which includes several Latinos. In December 2007, Rodriguez agreed to a 10-year $275 million contract with the Yankees, the richest contract in baseball history.