Kansas City Royals pitcher Bruce Chen found himself on the wrong end of a crude and racist gesture on Saturday night as teammate and catcher Humberto Quintero approached him during an interview and made the "slanted eyes" action behind his back.
Chen, a native Panamanian of Chinese descent, was just starting to chat with Fox's Kenny Albert and Tom Verducci in the bottom of the fourth inning in Pittsburgh when Quintero, a native of Venezuela, approached from behind and made the gesture. Quintero then made the far more acceptable "moose ears" as teammate Jarrod Dyson jokingly showered Chen with sunflower seeds.
Chen told the Kansas City Star on Sunday that he was not offended by Quintero's move:
"I'm not offended at all," Chen insisted. "I'm proud of my heritage and being Asian. I really like the way my eyes look. It makes me look sexy. It's just joking around. I'm definitely not offended, and I hope other people don't get offended.
"I don't think, by any means, was he trying to put my race down. He was doing it to me, and I like the way my eyes look."
Chen is one of the most likable and friendliest players in the game, so it's not hard to believe he responded to Quintero with his usual good nature. It's also admittedly impossible to believe that a grinning fool like Quintero made the move with any hate or malice in his mind.
Still, at 32 years old, Quintero has to know better. The "slanted eyes" move is one of the more offensive signals you can make and you'll remember that Spain's national basketball team started an international controversy when they showed up in Beijing for the 2008 Olympics and posed for a picture with every member doing the same thing. (They later apologized.)
Here's the transcript of the beginning of Chen's interview. You can tell that Albert immediately recognizes this clip is going to reach much further than the 3 percent of the country who received the Royals-Pirates game on its televisions:
Bruce Chen: "No problem. Glad to be able to join you guys."
Albert: "Now, you do not want to look over your right shoulder or your left shoulder."
Chen: "I know, I know."
Albert: "We won't give away the culprits, but I'm sure you'll be hearing about it."
Chen: "Well I'm going to make sure I check the video to see who are the guys that are doing it."
Quintero later returned to create more mischief during the lengthy interview, causing Verducci to note that Chen's teammate's were a "lively" bunch.
Chen: "I don't know what's going on. But when I turn back, make sure you guys have the camera on. Somebody's going to go down."
Albert: "Oh we will. Don't worry about that, Bruce."
It's unfortunate that the whole incident took place during a game at PNC Park in which the Royals and Pirates were wearing throwback uniforms in tribute of two of the greatest Negro League teams — the Kansas City Monarchs and Homestead Grays.
But Chen's teammates didn't even acquit themselves well when it came to the tribute threads. After being asked how he liked representing the Monarchs, Chen said he liked wearing the uniform, but that "definitely a lot of the other guys are not happy with the way they look."
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