(CBS News) Royals pitcher Bruce Chen was being interviewed during the Kansas City-Pittsburgh game on Saturday when teammate Humberto Quintero decided it would be a good time to sneak up behind Chen and make the gesture in the photo above.
Of course insensitive jokes are common in the clubhouse and Quintero certainly doesn't seem to have any malicious intent. But to see this kind of racially charged gesture on national TV caused a stir - and it wasn't long before Quintero began taking heat for his "friendly racism."
Chen, a native of Panama of Chinese descent, apparently wasn't fazed by Quintero's "joke" and quickly took to Twitter to say he took no offense.
I am proud to be of asian descent and I love the way my eyes look!I think it makes me look sexy.I am not offended by Quinteros actions— Bruce Chen (@ChenMusic) June 10, 2012
A Royals blog has noted that Quintero has a reputation for being a "prankster" but the gesture was at best immature, at worst offensive. In a bid to further downplay the situation and protect his teammate, Chen later tweeted:
Humberto is my friend and he was pointing out one of my best attributes, my eyes! #proudtobeofasiandescent— Bruce Chen (@ChenMusic) June 10, 2012
It's good to see Chen have a sense of humor and defuse the incident - although Quintero likely did offend many viewers (Asian and otherwise) who were watching the nationally televised broadcast on Fox.
It's not the first time we've seen this gesture cause a stir in the sports world. At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the Spanish Olympic basketball team drew fire for a photo in an ad showing the players using their fingers to apparently make their eyes look more Chinese.
At the time, the team said they were just trying to be "funny" and point guard Jose Calderon (who plays for the Toronto Raptors) said the team thought "it would be interpreted as an affectionate gesture."
Perhaps Quintero thought the same - but we doubt he'll do it again, at least not in front of a TV camera.