Orioles GM Dan Duquette is the latest sports executive to use coded language when referring to players. In an interview with MLB.com Duquette used interesting word choice when Jose Bautista’s name came up.
MLB.com: You expressed no interest in Jose Bautista this offseason, saying, “Jose is a villain in Baltimore and I’m not going to go tell our fans that we’re courting Jose Bautista for the Orioles, because they’re not going to be happy.” How often do you consider something like fan reaction when considering potential acquisitions?
Duquette: (Laughs) Well that was an easy one; our fans just don’t like Jose. We play those guys 25 times a year and he’s the face of the Blue Jays. He’s the villain in the play whenever we play the Blue Jays. I like our guys. Our guys are good. [Mark] Trumbo is like a working-class-type baseball player. If he was going to work every day on a construction site, you would understand that he brings that kind of work ethic every day. That’s the kind of player that our fans identify with. We try to get gritty players that work hard every day and give their best effort every day. Our fans seem to like that and respond to it.
To be fair Bautista plays for the Blue Jays and they are division rivals of the Orioles and do in fact play 25 times a season as Duquette said. He gets into trouble when he starts comparing Bautista to another player on his roster, in this case Mark Trumbo. Then he uses the classic description “working class type” and then follows up with the idea of a construction worker and the concept of work ethic.
So what is Duquette actually saying here? Is he saying the Orioles fans wouldn’t like Bautista because he is not working class? Or that Bautista doesn’t bring a “working class” type of work ethic to his craft, fans won’t like him? What’s the opposite of hard working? Lazy. That is what Duquette is implying in that statement.
This has been going on in sports and society at large since the dawn of time. The idea that white people have an inherent “work ethic” that is superior to those of non whites. In this case Bautista who is Dominican. Duquette also uses the construction site metaphor which invokes images of hard manual labor, lunch pails and hard hats. They are synonymous with terms like “hard scrabble” and “salt of the earth.” Again, all things that get associated with whiteness and in this case the idea of hard work.
For most people this comment will go unnoticed, but when do we as a society begin to address the seedy underbelly of this country?