Jack Morris suspended after on-air comment about Shohei Ohtani

DETROIT — Hall of Fame pitcher Jack Morris, now a Detroit Tigers broadcaster, was suspended indefinitely for using a racist accent toward Los Angeles Angels star Shohei Ohtani.

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Morris, 66, made the comment during Tuesday’s game in Detroit between the Tigers and the Angels, the Detroit Free Press reported. He has been suspended indefinitely by Bally Sports Detroit, the newspaper reported.

Ohtani, a Japanese-born pitching and hitting star, was preparing to bat in the top of the sixth inning. Bally Sports Detroit play-by-play announcer Matt Shepard asked Morris, who won 254 games during his career and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2018, what strategy he would employ against the Angels’ star, who is leading the major leagues with 39 home runs.

“Now, what do you do with Shohei Ohtani?” Shepard asked.

“Be very, very careful,” Morris said, using an accent that has long been used to mock English-speaking Asians.

Ohtani was intentionally walked, ESPN reported.

In the top of the ninth inning, Morris apologized on the air.

“Well folks, Shohei Ohtani is coming to the plate and it’s been brought to my attention, and I sincerely apologize if I offended anybody, especially anybody in the Asian community for what I said about pitching and being careful to Shohei Ohtani,” Morris said. “I did not intend for any offensive thing and I apologize if I did. I certainly respect and have the utmost respect for this guy and don’t blame a pitcher for walking him.”

In a statement on Wednesday, Bally Sports Detroit said it was “extremely disappointed with the remarks.” The network also said Morris “will be undergoing bias training to educate him on the impact of his comments and how he can be a positive influence in a diverse community.”

The company added that it had “a zero-tolerance policy” for bias and discrimination, and “deeply apologize for his insensitive remark.”

“The fact that this type of lazy racism keeps popping up around Shohei Ohtani speaks to so much of the media being apathetic and lacking any empathy towards the AAPI (Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders) experience,” ESPN’s Joon Lee tweeted. “It’s impossible for Jack Morris to play something like this off as ‘Sorry if you were offended,’ when there’s not any purpose in doing this accent other than to make a caricature of AAPI people.”

ESPN’s Pablo Torre tweeted, “Tell me you have zero Asian friends without telling me you have zero Asian friends.”

The Tigers also released a statement on Wednesday afternoon, supporting Bally’s decision.

“I got told about it last night after the game,” Tigers manager AJ Hinch told the Free Press. “I support both comments by Bally and our organization that there’s no place in the game for it. I love this sport. This sport is arguably the most diverse sport, and certainly of all four major sports here in the U.S. and it should be celebrated.”

On Wednesday, Ohtani said through an interpreter that he did not see the video footage.

“Personally, I’m not offended and I didn’t take anything personally, and I have no say as to what the Tigers want to do, or what they did,” Ohtani told reporters. “He is a Hall of Famer. He has a big influence in the baseball world, so it’s kind of a tough spot.”

Morris has been a television sports analyst since 2013, the Free Press reported.

During his final season for the Tigers in 1990, Morris made a sexist comment to a Free Press intern, Jennifer Frey.

As the intern approached to ask the pitcher a question, he said, “I don’t talk to people when I’m naked, especially women, unless they’re on top of me or I’m on top of them.”

Morris later apologized for those remarks, the Free Press reported.