Until normal circumstances, it would have been a delight to have Dae Shik Kim Jr. on the podcast. Under these circumstances, I suppose we can say that it was still a delight to have him on and chat. Unfortunately, the intention of this podcast was to provide Kim a platform to talk about the appalling manner in which multiple Seattle Mariners staff members behaved towards him and his brother last Friday during a game against the Tampa Bay Rays.
It began with an usher doing a “random” ticket check on Dae and his brother, but not any other fans’ tickets. It was one of at least five times that they would have their tickets checked over the course of the night — and that’s not counting entering and exiting their section. According to this direct message, the usher was asked twice to check their section, which confirms that they were targeted. (But it’s okay, she treats her mixed step-children like gold!)
In response, Dae sought to speak to a manager, but was told that the manager wasn’t available. After making an official complaint with customer service, he was asked to prove that it happened. Dae eventually requested to not be ticket checked again and to be left alone for the rest of the game, but after returning to his seat, the manager found them and sought to “interview” fans sitting in neighboring rows and seats to confirm Dae’s story.
Later, to rectify the situation, the manager insinuated that the usher would be punished (sigh), offered Dae a free ticket to a Mariners game (what), and a free plate of garlic fries (what). Dae received a call from the Mariners’ director of guest experience in which they were “100% owning what happened” and noted that their staff was completely in the wrong and not following protocol. Dae is still awaiting word from the Mariners on how they are going to attempt and remedy the situation, but how could you? What’s done is done, and any course of action — no matter how strong — will fail to mend the trauma that they inflicted upon Dae and his brother for not looking like the second-row type.
This has led to a unique dilemma for Dae. How can one even accept free tickets as retribution or continue to be a fan of a team that treats them so antagonistically at games and has issues with sexism and racism throughout the entire organization? During this episode, Dae talks about using baseball as an escape during childhood. Now, the Mariners are an escape in a different way: he doesn’t even want to return to the stadium.
This should be clear, but this is hardly a unique experience for fans of color. Several people replied to Dae that they have experienced similar treatment from Mariners staff. One former employee noted that the manager in question created big scenes when dealing with fans of color, and another former employee noted that management targets fans from the control room using cameras.
This is an important opportunity to understand the gravity of this situation and how it extends to other contexts. People watch baseball because they enjoy it. Duh! At your favorite ballpark — which is a sanctuary and place of comfort for many — people of color are targeted and harassed. These employees aren’t bad apples. Rather, they’re representative of a more systemic issue, which Dae refers to at several points during the podcast and in the videos on his Twitter. Without addressing these issues at their root, these situations will continue to perpetuate themselves.