Detroit Tigers broadcaster Jack Morris to return from suspension Friday

By Evan Petzold

Detroit Tigers Hall of Famer Jack Morris will return to the broadcast booth Friday after serving a 23-day suspension for an apparent racist comment he made toward Los Angeles Angels superstar Shohei Ohtani, Bally Sports Detroit senior vice president/general manager Greg Hammaren confirmed to the Free Press.

BSD declined to provide an official statement regarding Morris' reinstatement. The Tigers begin a three-game series Friday with the Tampa Bay Rays at Comerica Park and have 21 games remaining on the 2021 regular-season schedule.

Morris, 66, made the remark that led to his suspension on the Aug. 17 telecast, just as Ohtani was about to step to the plate for a matchup with Tigers reliever Joe Jimenez in the sixth inning at Comerica Park.

When play-by-play announcer Matt Shepard asked the retired MLB starting pitcher — elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2018 — how the Tigers should approach Ohtani in his upcoming at-bat, Morris replied, "Be very, very careful."

Morris used an accent that has been used to mock that of English-speaking Asians.

The next morning, Morris was indefinitely suspended from the broadcast and required to undergo bias training for education on "the impact of his comments and how he can be a positive influence in a diverse community," according to a statement from BSD. The network also stated it was "extremely disappointed with the remarks" and has "a zero-tolerance policy for bias or discrimination and deeply apologize for his insensitive remark."

The Tigers released a similar message.

"We are deeply disappointed by the comments made by Jack Morris during the broadcast last night," the franchise said in an Aug. 18 statement. "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."

In the ninth inning of the Aug. 17 game, Morris — a five-time All-Star and three-time World Series champion over 18 MLB seasons, 14 of them with the Tigers — issued an on-air apology. He has worked as a TV analyst since 2013, covering the Tigers since 2015.

"It's been brought to my attention, and I sincerely apologize if I offended anybody, especially anybody in the Asian community, for what I said about pitching and being careful to Shohei Ohtani," Morris said. "I did not intend for any offensive thing and I apologize if I did. I certainly respect and have the utmost respect for this guy."

One day after Morris' comment, Ohtani and Tigers manager AJ Hinch gave their responses:

"I did see the footage and I heard it on the video," Ohtani said through an interpreter. "Personally, I'm not offended and I didn't take anything personally, and I have no say as to what the Tigers want to do, or what they did. He is a Hall of Famer. He has a big influence in the baseball world, so it's kind of a tough spot."

"I got told about it last night after the game," Hinch said. "I support both comments by Bally and our organization that there's no place in the game for it. I love this sport. This sport is arguably the most diverse sport, and certainly of all four major sports here in the U.S. and it should be celebrated.

"The athletes we get to celebrate tonight, we're talking about Shohei Ohtani and Miguel Cabrera. The two biggest names coming into the game are from vastly different backgrounds, different countries, different parts of the world and they're a part of our great sport. We need to celebrate that and learn that comments like that are not only unnecessary but unwanted."

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