John Gibbons, the manager of the Toronto Blue Jays, had a strange and unfortunate way of complimenting two of his rookie pitchers, Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez, on Thursday afternoon. Stroman had just combined with two relievers on a one-hit shutout against the Boston Red Sox. The night before, Sanchez — reputed to be Toronto's top prospect — made his major league debut with two shutout innings against Boston.
The future is so bright, Gibbons couldn't help but say:
Gibbons referred to Stroman, Sanchez as "classy guys." Then added: "They aren't a couple of thugs running around out there." #Bluejays— Chris Toman (@Chris_Toman) July 24, 2014
“They’re both young, they’re both classy guys,” manager John Gibbons offered. “They’ll be good faces for the organization, guys you can look up to that are respectable, that kind of guy. They’re not a couple of thugs we’re going to run out there. Where their future ends up, who knows, but I’d be excited about ’em.”
There's that word again: thugs. The best thing Gibbons can say about Stroman and Sanchez is that they're not "thugs." Gibbons was trying to pay a compliment, trying to be nice. But is it ever a compliment to refer to someone as "not a thug"? What is Gibbons thinking? Who are the thugs? Have the Jays had a thug problem?
Stroman has black skin. Sanchez has a Latino last name. Gibbons has neither. Does he think that some might see Stroman and Sanchez and worry, because of their respective ethnicities, that they might be thuggish?
During football season, "thug" came up often when media and fans would refer to Richard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks. Sherman, who is black, didn't like what he was inferring in the racially and socially coded language:
"The only reason it bothers me is because it seems like it's the accepted way of calling somebody the N-word nowadays. Because they know.
"I know some 'thugs,' and they know I'm the furthest thing from a thug. I've fought that my whole life, just coming from where I'm coming from. Just because you hear Compton, you hear Watts, you hear cities like that, you just think 'thug, he's a gangster, he's this, that, and the other,' and then you hear Stanford, and they're like, 'oh man, that doesn't even make sense, that's an oxymoron.' "You fight it for so long, and to have it come back up and people start to use it again, it's frustrating."
Thugs can come in any race or ethnicity, but certain races and ethnicities get lumped in with the thugs more often than others. Gibbons might not have meant anything harmful by saying Stroman and Sanchez weren't thugs but, by using that word, he's done the opposite.
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