Tigers broadcaster Jack Morris suspended 'indefinitely'; Shohei Ohtani 'not offended'
Detroit — Jack Morris, a celebrated hero of the World Series-champion 1984 Detroit Tigers and a member of the team's broadcast team for much of the past decade, has been suspended "indefinitely" by Bally Sports Detroit following his use of a perceived Asian accent during Tuesday night's broadcast.
Bally Sports Detroit made the announcement Wednesday afternoon, less than 24 hours after Morris used an accent as Los Angeles Angels superstar Shohei Ohtani was coming to the plate.
Morris issued an on-air apology three innings later, but hasn't commented on the incident since. He did not return a message from The News seeking comment and clarification, and did not issue a statement Wednesday. Ohtani, after Wednesday night's game, said he wasn't offended by the incident.
"Bally Sports Detroit is extremely disappointed with the remarks analyst Jack Morris made during last night's Tigers game," the network said in a statement Wednesday.
"Jack has been suspended indefinitely from Tigers broadcasts and 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. We have a zero-tolerance policy for bias or discrimination and deeply apologize for his insensitive remark."
The Tigers issued a statement along with Bally Sports.
"The Detroit Tigers take immense pride in honoring the diverse cultures that make up our players, coaching staff, front office, fan base and community," the team said in a statement. "We are deeply disappointed by the comments made by Jack Morris during the broadcast last night. We fully support Bally Sports Detroit’s decision and their on-going commitment to ensure that all personnel are held to the highest standards of personal conduct."
Morris was scheduled to do the entire three-game Tigers-Angels series. Craig Monroe replaced Morris in the booth for Wednesday night's game, in which Ohtani pitched the Angels to a 3-1 victory. He allowed one run in eight innings, and hit his 40th homer of a season in which he is likely to be named American League Most Valuable Player.
Afterward, he was asked about the Morris incident.
"I did see the footage and I heard it," Ohtani told beat reporters, including The Athletic's Sam Blum, through a translator. "Personally, I'm not offended and I didn't take anything personally.
"He is a Hall of Famer. He has a big influence in the baseball world. It's kind of a tough spot."
The incident happened in the sixth inning of Tuesday night's series opener between the Tigers and Angels at Comerica Park. With the game tied at 2 and a runner on second and two out, Ohtani, 27, the two-way sensation who has quickly become the face of MLB, was coming to bat.
Tigers play-by-play man Matt Shepard asked Morris how he would pitch to Ohtani with first base open. Morris responded, using a heavy accent: “Very, very careful.” The clip quickly made its way around social media, with some criticizing Morris for the perceived use of a heavy Asian accent, while others heard differently.
Tigers manager AJ Hinch, before Wednesday's game, said he supported the comments and actions by Bally Sports Detroit and the Tigers.
"There is no place in the game for it," Hinch said. "I love this sport. This sport is arguably the most diverse sport, certainly of the our major sports here in the U.S, and it should be celebrated. The athletes we are celebrating (Wednesday), talking about Shohei Ohtani and Miguel Cabrera (going for 500 home runs), two of the biggest names in the game coming from vastly different backgrounds, different countries, different parts of the world — and they are a part of our great sport.
"So we need to celebrate that and learn that comments like that are not only unnecessary but unwarranted."
Angels manager Joe Maddon also addressed the situation before Wednesday's game, saying he felt Morris' on-air apology was sincere.
"The Detroit Tigers reacted the way they wanted to," Maddon told reporters. "And I know Jack, and he apologized. That's it. That's where I'm at with the whole situation right now."
The Angels declined comment, through a team spokesman. The Tigers declined comment after Tuesday night's game.
The Asian American Journalists Association's Sports Task Force, meanwhile, quickly blasted Morris' use of the accent, as well as his apology, which it called "insensitive and ignorant, referencing only the words he chose but not the stereotypical, racist accent he used."
"The Asian American Journalists Association Sports Task Force is disappointed and disturbed by Morris’ attempt to provide analysis on a live broadcast in this manner, especially at a time when Asians in the United States are experiencing a sharp increase in anti-Asian hate, which is resulting in harassment and attacks," the association's statement continued. "In his analysis, would Morris have used an accent for an African-American player? A Hispanic or Latin player? An Irish or Italian player? Morris, a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, should be held to a higher standard while serving a regional and national audience."
Morris, 66, has been part of the Tigers' TV booth since 2019, rotating in the analyst chair with Kirk Gibson, Dan Petry and Monroe, and before that from 2015-17. He was the ace of the 1980s Tigers, helping win the 1984 World Series championship, and he also won titles with the Minnesota Twins and Toronto Blue Jays (both franchises for whom he's also done broadcast work for), in an 18-year major-league career that finally earned him a spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2018.
The Tigers retired Morris' No. 47 in August 2018.
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