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Racist baseball cartoon online causes uproar

2013/09/10 14:00

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, Sept. 10 (Yonhap) -- An online cartoon depicting a Dominican baseball pitcher for a local team being chased by hooded Ku Klux Klan (KKK) members has caused an uproar this week, forcing its authors to issue an apology and replace the controversial piece.

A tandem of cartoonists, under the pen name Bounce Kim, published the strip on portal site Nate.com on Monday, as part of their weekly series dubbed "Fastball and Jokeball." It described Radhames Liz of the LG Twins in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) running away from members of the notorious white supremacist group yelling "Die!"

   Last Sunday against the Samsung Lions, Liz found himself in hot water for celebrating his third strikeout of the sixth inning with a little hop off the mound and a fist pump, after nailing Samsung's leadoff man Bae Young-seop in the head earlier in the same inning. Bae was stretchered off the field and taken to hospital for further tests, and Lions' fans felt Liz's reaction at the end of sixth was inappropriate in light of their outfielder's injury.

A captured image of a controversial online baseball cartoon describes Radhames Liz of the LG Twins being chased by members of the Ku Klux Klan. (Yonhap)

It was Liz's 19th hit-by-pitch of the season. He went on to hit another Samsung batter and now leads the KBO in the category.

The hard-throwing right-hander, who often reaches 160 kilometers per hour (100 miles per hour) with his fastball, has developed a reputation as the most frightening pitcher here.

In the cartoon, a character representing the Lions asks Liz why he had to fist pump his way to the dugout in the sixth, after he'd hit Bae earlier in the same inning. Liz responds that he was just too excited after getting his "three consecutive Ks," referring to the alphabet letter that commonly denotes strikeouts in baseball.

Then the Lions' character tells the pitcher, "I will give you a handful of your favorite Ks," and KKK members, clad in their white robes and cone-shaped hoods, go after Liz.

According to a public relations official at SK Communications, which operates Nate.com, the cartoon was taken down and replaced "in under 30 minutes." The official said an online editor detected problems, but not before the image of the original had been captured by readers.

When they first posted the link on their Facebook page, Bounce Kim wrote, "I think we're going to take some heat for this." Their fear quickly became a reality, with outraged readers demanding an immediate apology.

Bounce Kim wrote on Facebook that their cartoon was "thoughtless and foolish" and that they would come up with a replacement shortly.

After posting the new strip, the cartoonists ran a longer apology on Nate.com, saying they were under pressure to publish a good story and did something they shouldn't have done.

"We didn't have enough knowledge on the subject matter, and we were trying too hard to come up with something new and compelling," the apology read. "More than anything, we fully understand that this was borne out of our sheer stupidity."

   Calls to the Twins' front office were not immediately returned. The team has yet to issue a public statement in response to the cartoon.

The Twins and the Lions are also jostling for the regular season title, which will give them a bye to the championship Korean Series in the postseason. Liz hit Bae with no out and a runner on first, as the Twins were nursing a 3-1 lead. It is unlikely that Liz was trying to put Bae on base on purpose, with the heart of the lineup coming up in such a crucial game.

The Twins went on to win the game 5-4 and opened a one-game lead on the Lions at the top of the standings. Liz earned his ninth win of the season.

According to team officials after Sunday's game, Liz asked his interpreter for Bae's conditions and told him to relay his apology to the Samsung player.

The official with SK Communications said the portal site will take no further step after the cartoonists ran their apology. He said Bounce Kim never had problems prior to the controversial piece.

jeeho@yna.co.kr

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