Veteran baseball announcer Jim Kaat issued an apology during the broadcast of Friday's game between the Astros and the White Sox after saying that teams should 'get a 40 acre field full' of players like Cuban star Yoan Moncada.
The comment was taken as a thinly-veiled reference to slavery reparations from 1865 in which it was proposed to give freed slaves in the United States '40 acres and a mule' following the end of the Civil War – and Kaat's use of the phrase immediately drew a host of furious responses online.
Kaat, who pitched in MLB for 25 seasons during his playing career, said that he was attempting to compliment Chicago White Sox third baseman Moncada during Friday's playoff game against Houston when he responded to broadcast partner Buck Showalter's praise of the Cuban player.
wow that sounded heartfelt pic.twitter.com/5XEzLhFrGL— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) October 8, 2021
"Can we have one of those?" joked Showalter as Moncada stepped up to the plate in the third inning."
"Get a 40-acre field full of 'em," replied the 82-year-old Kaat.
It took a while but by the time of the fifth inning it had become clear online that Kaat's apparent reference to slavery hadn't been appreciated by the viewers at home, and the broadcaster issued an apology to say that his comments were not intended as benign, calling his choice of words "poor" and apologizing for what he said were "insensitive and hurtful remarks."
"Earlier in the game, when Yoan Moncada was at the plate, in an attempt to compliment the great player that he is, I used a poor choice of words that resulted in an insensitive and hurtful remark. And I'm sorry for that," Kaat said.
The issue has proved to be a divisive one online, with some castigating Kaat for what they see as wholly inappropriate comments and others suggesting that the issue has been blown out of proportion by another Twitter social justice mob.
I understand sensitivities, I really do. But cmon. He didn’t mean what you’re alleging. Does everything have to be offensive? Clearly he’s complimenting the player.— JD (@ChiCityJD) October 8, 2021
No, everything does not have to be offensive. That’s why it’s important to point out when something is offensive, so people can know and learn. His words were offensive, regardless of his intent. Words matter and there’s no reason not to learn how to use them appropriately.— ObjectiveTradesman (@objectivemainer) October 8, 2021
Sure, using slave terminology to describe a player is definitely a compliment.— Jay (@JayNCtoDC) October 8, 2021
"I understand sensitivities, I really do," wrote one commenter online. "But c'mon. He didn’t mean what you’re alleging. Does everything have to be offensive? Clearly he’s complimenting the player."
"No, everything does not have to be offensive," replied another. "That’s why it’s important to point out when something is offensive, so people can know and learn. His words were offensive, regardless of his intent. Words matter and there’s no reason not to learn how to use them appropriately."
"Sure, using slave terminology to describe a player is definitely a compliment," added a third.
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The issue is the latest such incident in which a baseball personality has landed in hot water for comments made on the air and comes just months after Detroit Tigers announcer Jack Morris was suspended for using an offensive accent when calling Japanese player Shohei Otani's at-bat.
Another announcer, Thom Brennaman, was also disciplined after using a homophobic slur during a Cincinnati Reds game last season.