By Albert Lin
The New York Yankees made news in late January when they signed Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka to an unprecedented seven-year, $155 million contract, by far the largest ever given to a Japanese player.
To trumpet the news, the New York Post decided to Photoshop an image of Tanaka into a World War IIera Japanese fighter plane, playing off the Yankees’ nickname of the Bronx Bombers.
The paper failed, of course, to consider the implications of such a front page. In a subsequent letter to Managing Editor Frank Zini, the Asian American Journalists Association explained: “We’re sure you understand how hurtful and damaging stereotypes are. Seeing Tanaka, a Japanese national, depicted in such a way conjured up hateful imagery. To this day, the ‘kamikaze’ imagery remains a powerful reminder of past racism. We all know about Pearl Harbor, but many people in our communities also remember how strong anti-Japanese sentiment sent 120,000 innocent Japanese Americans to internment camps.”
After part of the paper’s run had already been printedthose copies were not destroyed and went out as part of the Post’s early editioneditors thought better of the idea and changed the front page to the following:
Zini issued this explanation in response to an inquiry by the AAJA about the original front page: “We recognized early on that an image intended to amuse and play off the Yankee nickname ‘Bronx Bombers’ might be considered offensive by some people, even though that was not our intention. Therefore, it was removed after a very small number of papers had been printed.”
Notice that there isn’t a “sorry” among those 46 words. AAJA noticed, too, writing in its letter, “When something that egregious is published, we believe it warrants a more direct apology.”
The Post has yet to formally respond to the letter.