Derek Holland apologizes for using Japanese Giants staffer as punchline during racist bit on MLB Network

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<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/mlb/players/8406/" data-ylk="slk:Derek Holland">Derek Holland</a> thought he was being quite funny on MLB Network. He would soon receive some news to the contrary. (AP Photo)
Derek Holland thought he was being quite funny on MLB Network. He would soon receive some news to the contrary. (AP Photo)

San Francisco Giants pitcher Derek Holland appeared on MLB Network’s “Intentional Talk” on Wednesday with team massage therapist Haro Ogawa and a plan to get some laughs. A day later, he was apologizing for a joke that had backfired to a tremendous degree.

Holland apologized Thursday for his attempt at a comedic routine in which he used Ogawa as his “hype man,” according to NBC Sports Bay Area’s Alex Pavlovic. Parts of the interview were captured by Deadspin and contained numerous insensitive jokes regarding Ogawa’s Asian heritage.

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Derek Holland’s crude MLB Network appearance

It did not take very long to know what direction the interview would be going, as Holland’s first question from “Intentional Talk’s” Chris Rose and Kevin Millar was to simply explain who he had brought with him.

Holland did not give them Ogawa’s name or position with the team at any time during the interview, instead introducing him as his “hype man.” Over the course of the next few minutes, Holland broke out in an offensive Asian accent, then mockingly bowed with Ogawa and said “much respect” multiple times.

It is worth noting that Millar and Rose eagerly seemed to buy into the cringe-worthy bit, as they both laughed along with Holland and asked both men questions, with Holland seemingly working as Ogawa’s translator. Millar even threw out a “Konnichiwa,” the Japanese word for hello, for Ogawa.

This whole episode will almost certainly be dismissed by some as “just joking around,” but it’s revealing what the group chose to joke about and that’s what makes the bare-bones summary of what Holland did so offensive.

The joke they were making was that Holland had brought an Asian person with him, and that Asian person had ostensibly funny mannerisms and language skills. That was it. An Asian person — really Asian people as a whole — was the joke. Ogawa might have fully agreed to play the part with Holland, but that doesn’t mean he gets the sole say in whether or not the routine was offensive.

Derek Holland and Giants apologize for racist bit

Blowback for Holland’s MLB Network appearance wasn’t instantaneous, but news of the Deadspin article eventually reached the pitcher by the end of the Giants’ game against the Mets on Thursday. Holland asked to meet with the media after the game, according to Pavlovic.

During the meeting, Holland apologized and attempted to explain why his attempt at being funny went so, so wrong. He also noted that Ogawa was fully in on the joke and that he had already apologized to both Ogawa and Giants bullpen catcher Taira Uematsu, who is also Japanese.

From NBC Sports Bay Area:

“Obviously that was not our intention. I want to make sure that it’s clear that that’s all on me,” he said. “This is directly on me. Me and Haro were just doing a bit. We didn’t expect it to turn out the way that it did. Obviously it was not meant to be that way … I apologize for what I’ve done and what I’ve caused. Now it’s become a distraction for the team and I don’t want that, and I don’t want to have offended anybody, and I apologize for doing that.”

The Giants also released a statement along the same lines to Deadspin, saying they didn’t condone Holland’s behavior and that the pitcher had been spoken to.

“The Giants organization does not condone that type of behavior in any way,” Giants spokesperson Matt Chisholm told Deadspin. “We spoke to Derek regarding his interview yesterday and he completely understands the severity of the situation and he apologizes if it offended anyone. That was not his intention at all, but he’s taking full responsibility for it. It was not his intention at all to embarrass Haro.

There is no word yet on whether or not Holland might face punishment for the appearance.

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