An incident involving Little League players shown on ESPN sparked a strong reaction from some observers online on Monday as it went viral.
The scene showed a young black player sitting with a blank expression while white teammates stuck a cotton-like substance to his hair. While ESPN’s camera at the time hovered during a nationally televised Major League Baseball game, the network’s announcers shed light on what they saw, but some who watched it expressed concern about what they considered to be an act of racial insensitivity. used to be.
It happened Sunday night during the 2022 MLB Little League Classic, a game between the Baltimore Orioles and Boston Red Sox at Historic Bowman Field in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. The 2,366-seat stadium is the location of the Little League World Series, which is broadcast by ESPN. The kids featured in the viral clip were players from the Davenport, Iowa region, representing the Midwest region in the 12-and-under tournament and attending the Orioles-Red Sox game.
“During the broadcast of the MLB Little League Classic, a Midwestern player was shown on his head with stuffing from a stuffed animal given away at the game,” Little League International said in a statement Monday. “After talking to the team and viewing photos, multiple players from the Midwest Region team joined in while enjoying the game. Since only one player appeared on the broadcast, Little League International understands that the actions shown as be considered racially insensitive.
“We spoke to the player’s mother and the coaches, who assured us that there was no malicious intent behind the action shown during the broadcast.”
An official from the Midwest team — which appears to be mostly white players — declined to comment Monday, saying he had been asked by Little League International to refer media questions to the youth baseball organization.
“We understand the sensitivities and are in contact with the Little League organizers about the situation,” ESPN said in a statement Tuesday morning.
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The Little League International statement that disagreed was Carolyn Hinds, a Toronto-based film critic and journalist, who responded to the viral images of tweet that it was “exactly what we think it is and some people need to be addressed.”
When reached by phone later Monday, Hinds said Little League officials did not address the matter in the clip. She wondered if the actions were “something that happens regularly with this team,” and what lessons about racial tolerance were taught by the players’ parents.
On Tuesday, Davenport Southeast Little League (SELL), the Iowa-based parent organization for the squad that represents the Midwest region, released a statement saying its players were trying to “try to follow the white chanterelle of the Hawaii team’s star.” player, who they say is a great baseball player with a really cool haircut.”
The organization identified the black kid in question as second baseman Jeremiah Grise and stated that ESPN’s cameras “didn’t show the guys putting stuffing on the heads of multiple players and that Jeremiah was smiling and loving his new ‘look.'”
SELL shared footage of Grise’s play, with the substance on his head, laughing and cheering.
“We are in no way trying to minimize the racial insensitivity of the boys’ actions and apologize for the harm this video has caused,” SELL continued. “We spoke to the boys to educate them as to why it was inappropriate — which none of them had realized or understood at the time. They understand now and offer them a life lesson that they will take with them.”
As with some other observers, Hinds had found several elements of the scene shocking, including the use of a material closely resembling cotton — evoking associations with slave plantations in the United States and in her native Barbados — and the lack of “respect for his physical autonomy.”
“As a black and as a black woman, just the idea of someone putting cotton in a black person’s hair immediately upset me,” Hinds said. “For us, the history of cotton is tumultuous in itself.” In addition, she claimed that black people are “very sensitive about who touches our hair”.
For another online commentatorthe sight of the child’s hair with the material attached struck a deeply personal chord.
Khari Thompson, a reporter with Boston sports radio station WEEI, explained by phone Monday that growing up near Chicago in northwest Indiana, he was one of the few black children in his various classrooms.
“I was used to being noticed by how different I looked, how different my hair looked, and people would try to touch it, play with it when I was on the school bus,” he said. “It got to a point where people tried to hide loose change in my hair.”
“I just kind of took it in,” he added, “because I felt very alone in my situation.”
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Those experiences gave Thompson immense sympathy for the kid in the clip, and to the 31-year-old reporter it didn’t matter much if, as Little League officials suggested, white teammates not seen on camera received similar treatment. .
“For a white boy, putting cotton in your hair – what images and history does that conjure up?” asked Thompson. “Yeah, sure, it’s fun. It is nothing. But that’s not the case for someone like me or someone like him. … If you are the only person who looks like you and has hair like you, that has a different meaning.”
‘It’s up to the adults to do something about that,’ he added, ‘and it’s really disturbing to see… that nobody has done anything about it. That is scary to me.”
ESPN announcer Karl Ravech seemed to have a different reaction to what he saw.
“That’s just Little Leaguers who are Little Leaguers out there,” Ravech said of the scene.
Hinds blamed the broadcast’s producers for not stopping when it became clear what was going on.
“They don’t look at these situations,” she said, “and get outside of themselves and say, ‘Is this a problem?’ They don’t think to themselves, “If this were my child, my friend’s child, my niece, would I be okay with this?” ”
The Midwest team returns to action on Tuesday when it takes the Southwest Region squad into the tournament’s consolation group.
“The Little League World Series was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for our boys and we hope everyone can focus again on their great play, teamwork and sportsmanship on the field,” SELL said in its statement on Tuesday. “We’re asking everyone, including the media and online provocateurs, to please let these 12-year-olds be 12-year-olds.”