Racist remarks against foreign baseball coach result in suspension, fine


Story about frustrated player making anti-gaijin remarks about his coach, our own Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters Trey Hillman, who has had a simply incredible season (and may take the pennant for the first time for this new team). Excerpt follows:

At this stage of the season, the only thing any player should be thinking about is winning the pennant. Because of a seventh inning grand slam by Lotte DH Benny Agbayani, the Marines were victorious over the Nippon Ham Fighters to inject even more chaos into this topsy turvy quest for first.

However, that was vastly overshadowed by the actions of Fighters starter Satoru Kanemura, who threw a major hissy fit due to being pulled by manager Trey Hillman in the fifth inning needing just one out to become the first Nippon Ham hurler to rack up five straight ten win seasons since Yukihiro Nishimura. After the game, he told the press that. yanking him was “absolutely unforgivable” and then took a racial shot at Hillman, grumbling that, “because he’s a foreigner, he doesn’t care about players’ individual goals.” He then challeneged reporters to print his remarks. “I don’t even want to look at him,” Kanemura said of Hillman. In addition, he accused the former Rangers farm director of being more indulgent with Iranian-Japanese righthander Yu Darvish than him. In the context of this little explosion, that also has a racial tinge to it. Kanemura also beefed that he didn’t think Hillman trusted him.

Hillman wouldn’t comment on any of this, but General Manager Shigeru Takada, a former outfielder with Yomiuri, did, saying that he thought Hillman, who has taken the Sparky Anderson tack to handling pitchers this season by going to the bullpen at the first signs of trouble, had actually waited too long before hitting the eject button on Kanemura, who was immediately taken off the roster for the duration of the playoffs and told to not even show up at practice Monday. A meeting will also be held Monday to determine what to do about Kanemura. None of the players interviewed, at least any of those who were willing to comment, were supportive of their teammate. Takada was especially miffed that Kanemura was talking about individual and not team goals.

Rest of the article at

Let’s see where this goes:

Kanemura suspended, fined Y2 million for criticizing Hillman
Japan Today, Tuesday, September 26, 2006 at 07:22 EDT

TOKYO Nippon Ham Fighters right-hander Satoru Kanemura received a suspension until the end of the playoffs and a 2 million yen fine Monday for criticizing the decision of team manager Trey Hillman, officials of the Pacific League club said. Nippon Ham removed Kanemura from the active roster the same day, following the 30-year-old’s comments from the previous day.

“I’ll never forgive him. He is a foreign manager, so he probably doesn’t care about individual stats. I don’t even want to see his face,” Kanemura said after Nippon Ham lost 8-4 to the Lotte Marines at Chiba Marine Stadium. In the bases-loaded situation, Kanemura, 30, needed one more out to have a chance of notching his 10th win of the season. He has posted double-digit wins in the past four seasons. (Kyodo News)

(Refreshing comments, as always, on the Japan Today BBS under the article)

COMMENT: While I support the sanctions meted out, why am I not surprised by this development? Is it a given or a natural law that sooner or later, somebody’s foreignness is inevitably made an issue of here? I know Japan isn’t alone in this regard by any means, but one can hope that things can improve. Especially given the degree of fan service and overall relaxedness that the Fighters under Hillman have displayed–and still look likely to win the pennant! Nice guys can finish first. It’s just a shame that in the heat of the moment, the race card (or gaijin card, whichever interpretation you prefer) has to surface… Bravo to showing zero tolerance for this sort of thing. Debito in Sapporo, proud supporter of the Fighters!



On Sep 27, 2006, Debito’s friend wrote:
Personally, and I’ve read Kanemura’s comments in Japanese, too, I
didn’t find them to really be “racist” or xenophobic in any way.

Okay, here they are:

(Zettai ni yurusanai. Gaikokujin wa kojin kiroku wa dou de mo ii n deshou. Shin’you ga nai tte iu koto. Kao mo mitakunai.) (Doshin Sept 25)

Now whether you consider that “racist” or “xenophobic” is a matter of
your tolerance for the terminology used.

Kanemura was not criticizing his coach personally for what was in his
mind a bad decision. He was making a blanket statement about
foreigners (hopefully he used the word gaikokujin instead of gaijin,
but even the media softens quotes like these at times, see
https://www.debito.org/opportunism.html#1), making it a factor in the
coach’s decisionmaking processes.

Slot in “Chinese”, “Black”, or any term of reference that is
generally unrelated to nationality (as “gaikokujin” is) in place of
“gaikokujin”, and you can make a case that this was inappropriate for
reasons more than just breaking the taboo of a player ridiculing his
coach in public.

This base of reference for decisionmaking power would not have
happened to a Japanese coach, for example. And imagine if this had
happened to a Zainichi coach (particularly a Zainichi Korean) or a
clearly Buraku coach. There would quite possibly be protests from
those quarters too. It’s only as racist, xenophobic, or problematic
in these situations as people like us in Hillman’s “quarter”, if you
will, tend to make it. Clearly I would. My friend wouldn’t. Okay.

The interesting thing is it seems the print and broadcast media is
sweetening the subject, making the fine and suspension merely a
matter of ridiculing the coach (which is fine in itself). But nobody
I’ve been able to talk to (including my barber today, who has the
radio on constantly) seems to know that “foreignness” was an issue in
the statements.

Hmmm… Is it a good thing to keep on sweeping this issue under the
rug, or would it be better to finally deal with it, so people put
this elephant in the room out to pasture? The World Cup 2006 very
clearly adopted as one of its slogans the complete intolerance of
dealing with people on racist (or xenophobic, whatever) terms. I
think it’s about time Japan’s sports leagues began adopting the same


Anyway, everyone, watch the game tonight on NHK Sougou Terebi. 6PM.
If the Fighters win or tie against Softbank tonight (Fighters won 8
to nothing against them last night!), that’s it–we win the pennant!

Go Trey Hillman go! Debito

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