Jenny Dial Creech

Houston Chronicle Sunday - - FRONT PAGE - JENNY DIAL CREECH jenny.creech@chron.com twit­ter.com/jen­ny­di­al­creech

›› Gur­riel’s quick apol­ogy a stark con­tract to McNair’s re­ac­tion in pair of con­tro­ver­sies.

Two con­tro­ver­sies bring two re­ac­tions: Gur­riel’s quick apol­ogy stands in stark con­trast to McNair’s

Two events marred what should have been re­mem­bered as a his­toric day in Hous­ton sports.

On Fri­day, the Astros won the city’s first World Se­ries game.

Ear­lier that day, two Tex­ans skipped prac­tice, pre­sum­ably over ir­re­spon­si­ble re­marks made by owner Bob McNair.

If that weren’t enough, the Astros’ Yuli Gur­riel stained his home run in Game 3 against the Dodgers by mak­ing a racially in­sen­si­tive and highly in­ap­pro­pri­ate ges­ture in the dugout.

Nei­ther ac­tion is for­giv­able. Both stole the spot­light from a day Hous­to­ni­ans should have cel­e­brated.

One of the uni­ver­sal beau­ties of sports is that they bring peo­ple to­gether. Lately, there have been too many in­stances where they di­vide.

McNair’s and Gur­riel’s ac­tions will be com­pared be­cause of their prox­im­ity in time and the racially in­sen­si­tive na­ture of both, but the sit­u­a­tions aren’t the same.

To be crys­tal clear, Gur­riel and McNair made er­rors. Nei­ther should be ex­cused.

But in Gur­riel’s case, Ma­jor League Base­ball, the Astros and Gur­riel re­sponded to the sit­u­a­tion quickly and ad­mirably. The hope mov­ing for­ward is that peo­ple can learn from this un­for­tu­nate in­ci­dent.

The ges­ture was aw­ful. There’s no way around it.

The video of him went vi­ral al­most im­me­di­ately. Gur­riel used his fingers to act as if he were “slant­ing” his eyes and ap­peared to say “Chinito,” which trans­lates to “lit­tle Chi­nese boy” after hit­ting a home run off Dodgers pitcher Yu Darvish.

It was shock­ing to wit­ness. An in­ter­na­tional game

Par­tic­u­larly after a won­der­ful mo­ment when a Cuban player hit a home run off a Ja­pane­seIra­nian player in Texas.

That’s a mo­ment that truly de­fines the in­ter­na­tion­al­ity of base­ball. That’s some­thing to cel­e­brate. In a world with so much ten­sion and so many is­sues, this sport brings to­gether dif­fer­ent back­grounds, eth­nic­i­ties and cul­tures.

And Gur­riel tar­nished it.

The Astros won the game 5-3, but the focus shifted to Gur­riel’s re­sponse.

He was re­morse­ful and seemed sin­cere and gen­uine.

Astros man­ager A.J. Hinch made no ex­cuses for Gur­riel’s be­hav­ior. Nor did gen­eral man­ager Jeff Luh­now.

Darvish han­dled the in­ci­dent with in­cred­i­ble grace, ac­knowl­edg­ing the ges­ture was of­fen­sive but urg­ing ev­ery­one to learn from it. Ev­ery­one can learn some­thing from Darvish, who couldn’t have been more classy.

Gur­riel was set to meet with and apol­o­gize to Darvish be­fore Satur­day’s Game 4.

MLB com­mis­sioner Rob Man­fred is­sued a five-game sus­pen­sion to Gur­riel to be served at the start of the 2018 sea­son. He will also un­dergo sen­si­tiv­ity train­ing dur­ing the off­sea­son. Luh­now said Gur­riel’s salary dur­ing the sus­pen­sion would go to char­ity.

It’s un­der­stand­able that many think there should have been an im­me­di­ate sus­pen­sion, but the rea­son­ing Man­fred gave was sound. He also sug­gested the other 24 Astros not be pun­ished for Gur­riel’s ac­tions.

It will con­tinue to cre­ate con­tro­versy, but it is an ap­pro­pri­ate pun­ish­ment that we can only hope will teach Gur­riel that ac­tions have con­se­quences.

As well as this was han­dled, it can’t stop here. It won’t mean any­thing if other play­ers, fans and chil­dren who look at these play­ers as role mod­els don’t learn from this. Dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives

Gur­riel can claim some ig­no­rance. He came to the United States last year from Cuba and has worked to as­sim­i­late into a new cul­ture. That be­ing said, it truly is his re­spon­si­bil­ity to ed­u­cate him­self on as much as he can, in­clud­ing what is of­fen­sive to the new cul­ture.

Gur­riel can and should learn from this ex­pe­ri­ence.

But McNair can­not claim ig­no­rance.

On Fri­day, ESPN re­leased an ac­count of last week’s NFL own­ers meet­ings, dur­ing which McNair made the com­ment, “We can’t have in­mates run­ning the prison,” in re­gard to the re­cent and grow­ing na­tional an­them protests across the NFL.

The choice of words is ir­re­spon­si­ble, care­less and inex­cus­able.

Re­mem­ber, the source of the protests stems from play­ers mak­ing a state­ment about po­lice bru­tal­ity against AfricanAmer­i­cans. So to use a say­ing that com­pares the ath­letes to crim­i­nals is rep­re­hen­si­ble.

McNair, who has been an NFL owner for nearly two decades, should know bet­ter.

It’s not just about the choice of words. It’s about cre­at­ing more divi­sion be­tween the own­ers and the play­ers.

He made a state­ment fol­low­ing Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s com­ments in Septem­ber when vir­tu­ally the en­tire league re­acted. The Tex­ans were play­ing in New Eng­land and he locked arms in unity with them for the an­them. He spoke highly of his play­ers’ char­ac­ter and in­tel­li­gence at the time.

This state­ment dur­ing a gath­er­ing of NFL own­ers negates the re­spect he showed play­ers in Septem­ber.

It would have even if he had cho­sen dif­fer­ent words. The terms “in­mates” and “prison” cer­tainly make this worse, but it would have also been bad for him to say play­ers shouldn’t have a say in what hap­pens in the league. That would be dis­re­spect­ful.

He also made a state­ment after the fact that backpedaled and said he was re­fer­ring to the league of­fice when talk­ing about the “in­mates.” McNair apol­o­gizes

It was an at­tempt to take away the neg­a­tive at­ten­tion he had brought upon him­self, when the first re­ac­tion needed to be an apol­ogy to the play­ers.

McNair apol­o­gized again Satur­day, pub­licly and in per­son to his play­ers, but it might be too lit­tle, too late. The NFL is ex­tremely po­lar­ized and his com­ments made things worse in Hous­ton, where Tex­ans play­ers have stood and been re­spect­ful dur­ing the na­tional an­them.

It will not be sur­pris­ing if any­one from the team protests in Seat­tle dur­ing the an­them Sun­day.

Nav­i­gat­ing through in­ci­dents like these and try­ing to move for­ward is get­ting harder be­cause of the vol­ume of them.

But the con­ver­sa­tions re­sult­ing from them are im­por­tant. Learn­ing from the mishaps of own­ers, coaches, play­ers and oth­ers who hold the re­spect and at­ten­tion of mil­lions is im­por­tant.

Let’s hope both in­ci­dents that tar­nished what was oth­er­wise a spe­cial day for Hous­ton sports will bring aware­ness and con­struc­tive di­a­logue rather than more divi­sion and po­lar­iza­tion.

Michael Cia­glo / Hous­ton Chron­i­cle

The Astros’ Yuli Gur­riel hits into a dou­ble play in the sec­ond in­ning Satur­day night. His ac­tions in the dugout after home­r­ing in Game 3 re­sulted in a five-game sus­pen­sion to be served in 2018.

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