For as long as I can remember, my father has been in the automobile industry. From working in the mail room as a kid trying to make a living, to basic financing as a young adult, to running businesses overseas, my pops has always been around wheels, while wheeling and dealing his entire career.
Among the many stories he’s told me over the years, and there have been plenty, one in particular stands out. In his pre-retirement years, he decided to sell cars. Always the consummate salesman, my dad was a natural.
You see, my father can sell anything, to anyone, at any time, except for his current wife, Maxine, with whom his buck stops. One day, at his old dealership, which shall remain nameless in a town that will remain nameless, my father, unwaveringly proud of his half (it might as well be full) Latin heritage, decided he would use his bilingualism to sell a car to a family in need.
A Latin family walked into his dealership one day and decided they wanted to buy a car. Now I don’t know if that family didn’t speak English, spoke only broken English, or that my father decided to use whatever means he could to sell them a car but apparently, all this Spanish-speaking struck a chord.
With the owner of the dealership.
After the family left, and forgive me if I forget whether dad made the sale or not, the dealership’s top brass was quick to pull my father aside. It was at that point that my father was told specifically not to speak Spanish when selling their automobiles.
He confided in me the story, irate and offended, troubled and confused, doing his best to control his anger and disappointment. He had been reprimanded and shamed for being Latin. It wasn’t long afterwards that, in not so many words, my father told the dealership to go fuck themselves, in perfect English, while most likely muttering those very same words in Spanish while packing his things and walking out the door.
This was almost twenty years ago. The story resonates with me to this day. In fact, he and I still talk about it. We will once again when I talk to him about Kevin Mather.
I wanted to get that story off my chest before discussing the recent comments of Seattle Mariners’ (former) President and CEO (or whatever he did there) Kevin Mather, who recently stepped down for comments he made during an online Rotary interview. On a Zoom call he now wishes he would never have answered, Mather was asked a slew of questions about the organization heading into the 2021 season.
Towards the end of said interview, Mathers’ mouth officially ended his baseball career. He made reference to players, of both Asian and Latin descent, whose English was bad (Mather is no Rhodes scholar) and complained about having to pay translators, as much as $75,000 a year, for players who couldn’t speak English. He touted Seattle’s overseas development program in finding Venezuelan and Dominican prospects who barely knew how to make change for a five-dollar bill. I’m paraphrasing and will not post the link to said interview so as not to drive this jackass any more traffic but rest assured, if you look it up, you’ll find some fairly entrenched ignorance and insensitivity.
I don’t know how much money Mather got paid as Mariners minority owner and team president but I can assure you it’s safely in the not-having-trouble-making-change-for-a-five-dollar-bill tax bracket and mostly likely higher still than the seventy-five-grand-with-probably-no-per-diem-trying-to-find-the-player-to-save-your-franchise translator gig they’ve grown ever tired of paying for.
I’m not going to sit here and rail on Mather because that’s much too easy. That fucker will not work in Major League Baseball again, although with Rob Manfred as baseball commissioner, anything is possible. This is just another tired tale of an older white man who is so far out of touch with reality that he still counts his black friends, fumbles over his chop sticks while eating sushi and when dining at his local Mexican restaurant, tells his server “gracias” while leaving a 13% tip and thinking he was gracious. It should come as no surprise that the baseball team he ran (into the ground) has been irrelevant since the day he moved into his cushy SafeCo Field office.
I’ll spare you the whole tired, poor and huddled masses argument but if, as a CEO of a professional baseball team, you’re not keenly aware that 30% of your league is comprised of players born outside the United States, that over 30% of the league is of Latin descent, and up to 5% of the league is of Asian descent, including one of the most iconic Japanese players of our generation who played in Seattle, well, I’m afraid you are as out of touch as they come. You run a team, or at least used to, that is geographically closest to the area you’re trying to recruit from. How is it that you haven’t made an attempt to speak another language all the while judging players for not speaking your own? The white privilege runs deeps in Seattle.
I met a lady once. She worked for the Detroit Tigers. Seemingly white at first glance, upon getting to know her further, her Spanish was impeccable. She told me that the Detroit Tigers paid her as a full-time employee to go to Latin American countries and translate for scouts. Considering the Tigers are worth over 1.25 billion dollars, and the possibility of signing the next big unknown player could reap immediate and immeasurable value, I was not surprised that a company that size would employ people, at a relatively minimal investment, to do such a thing.
I’ve translated before. It is no easy gig, especially considering all the dialects that exist not only between countries but within them. Considering Mather had grown tired of wasting money on interpreters, perhaps he should invest in some Rosetta Stone with the hopes that they’ll throw in a side of sensitivity training gratis.
I’m generally not one to get on my soapbox but considering my ancestry.com results read like a spinning globe that has yet to stop, I found Mather’s flippant comments upsetting, uneducated and downright offensive. As we traverse from Al Campanis to Donald Sterling to Kevin Mather, we are reminded that the real racists will always please stand up.
My Latin heritage resonates loud within SportsChump Manor. Mather’s comments and subsequent dismissal, brought me back to the day my pops told me he had been discriminated against for doing his job. And it infuriated me.
We wonder why race and class are still issues, why “minorities” can still be angry and why athletes use their voice, whether it’s wearing t-shirts with the names of slain victims or taking knees for national anthems. Over a half a century ago, athletes from Jim Brown to Bill Russell to Cassius Clay to Lew Alcindor bucked the system. They stood tall and proud for change. Athletes do that to this day yet we question their motives instead of opening our eyes. It’s because things have not changed, they’ve just shape-shifted.
Whether he recognizes it or not, Mathers is an inherent bigot but more debilitatingly, he comes from a system that has allowed this behavior to exist without taking the time to understand why. I bet you he’s taking that moment now. Or maybe his kids are taking the time to tell him that wasn’t cool, like the conversations I had with my father, and the ones I continue to have with him. Those conversations are the only things that will save this country, and its future generations, from itself.
Allow me to say, for the record, I am uber proud of all my heritage, from Latin to Jewish and everything else that comprises what is me. Nothing will ever change that. So, to you, Dad, I say I love you and to entire Humpherys/Flores and Rosenblatt/Marvin clan, I couldn’t be prouder of our bloodline.
And to you, Mr. Mather, te regalo un sincero “Vete pa’ carajo!” but I wouldn’t want you to spend the seventy-five grand figuring out what it meant.