From Jorge Encinas at NPR on March 26, 2017, with mention of SABR member Adrian Burgos Jr.:
With the start of baseball season in sight, millions of Latino fans in the U.S., the Caribbean, and Latin America will be rooting for their favorite players, many of whom are transplants from places like Venezuela, Dominican Republic, and Cuba. But Spanish-speaking fans, millions of whom watch Spanish-language broadcasts of baseball games, will have little idea of the lingering challenge some Latino players in the States have long faced: inadequate language support from the minor and majorleagues.
Much of the issues surround the inability of the Latino players to meaningfully communicate with the press. This can be the result of simply not speaking each other’s language, a barrier in how cultural norms affect the use of language, or from poor reporting on Latino players.
One such incident of lackluster coverage happened last year when Brian T. Smith from the Houston Chronicle wrote an article on the struggling performance of Carlos Gómez during his season with the Houston Astros. Gómez, born in the Dominican Republic, speaks English, but not with native proficiency. When Smith quoted Gómez as saying, “For the last year and this year, I not really do much for this team. The fans be angry. They be disappointed,” the mangled language sparked a backlash about how the media can sometimes cover players in a way that demeans their intelligence or leaves them embarrassed.
Adrian Burgos Jr., a professor at the University of Illinois who specializes in Latino and sports history, says there is a history of English-language media being insensitive in the coverage Latino players have received in the past. “The practice of poking fun at the accents that Latino players used has been a traditional exercise of the English-language press,” Burgos said. He says they tend to highlight the accents and fail to adequately convey the ideas that Latino players are trying to express.
Originally published: March 27, 2017. Last Updated: March 27, 2017.