Houston Astros: Yuli Gurriel banned over racist gesture

Yuli Gurriel of the Houston Astros
Yuli Gurriel has apologised for his " indefensible" gesture

Houston Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel has been banned for five games from the start of the 2018 season for making a racist gesture.

Cuban Gurriel made a slant-eyed gesture, apparently at Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish, in game three of the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Gurriel will not miss any of the best-of-seven series, which is tied at 2-2.

Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said there was "no place in our game" for such behaviour.

Gurriel was filmed making the gesture in the dugout after hitting a home run off Darvish during the Astros' victory on Friday. The Dodgers won the fourth match of the series 6-2 on Saturday.

The 33-year-old played for a year in Japan and later apologised for an "offensive gesture that was indefensible".

"I sincerely apologise to everyone that I offended with my actions. I deeply regret it," said Gurriel.

"I would particularly like to apologise to Yu Darvish, a pitcher I admire and respect."

Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Yu Darvish
Yu Darvish wants the incident involving Gurriel to be used as a learning experience

Gurriel will be required to have sensitivity training as part of his punishment and will not be paid for the five games he will miss, with his salary for those matches going to charitable causes supporting diversity efforts.

"No-one is perfect," Darvish posted on social media. "That includes both you and I.

"What he [did] isn't right, but I believe we should put our effort into learning rather than to accuse him. If we can take something for this, this is a giant step for mankind.

"Since we are living in such a wonderful world, let's stay positive and move forward instead of focusing on anger. I'm counting on everyone's big love."

Analysis

Seth Bennett, BBC World Service

Within minutes of Gurriel making his racist gesture it was already being shared and condemned on social media. This is the reality of the 21st century and I am not sure Gurriel initially realised what a big issue this would become.

Major League Baseball - which has a strong following in Asia, especially in Japan - moved quickly to try to snuff this situation out before it ballooned into an issue that would overshadow the World Series, the sport's showpiece event.

Commissioner Manfred accepted Gurriel's apology and gave him a five-match ban, which doesn't start until next season. This has been a talking point amongst the media and fans, though Gurriel was still cheered by Astros fans when he was announced in the line-up on Saturday. I suspect it might be a different story when the series moves to Los Angeles on Tuesday for game six.

To allow the Astros player to continue playing for the remainder of this post-season will be seen by some as a soft touch. But with there being only one more day without baseball until the end of the season, it would have been very difficult for Manfred to have held a full disciplinary procedure - which would have to include an appeals process as well - before the end of the campaign.

Gurriel has accepted his punishment and will lose over £250,000 in salary during his ban, but this continues to show the amount of work that still needs to be done by major professional sports to educate players about what is acceptable behaviour.

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