I’m sure former Denver Post sports writer, Terry Frei, wishes he could take back the tweet suggesting he was uneasy with Japanese driver Takuma Sato winning the Indy 500 on Memorial Day. If he could, perhaps he would still have a job.
Frei was fired by the Post for his tweet that launched a firestorm of outrage by the mobocracy on social media for its tasteless and deplorable racists bent. No doubt it was ill-advised and ill-considered.
The incident cost Frei his job but the comments and continuing, unrelenting dialog also prompted a comment from Andretti Autosport on its Facebook page:
The Andretti Autosport Facebook page is a place for our supporters, our friends and our families to come together in their passion for motorsport. This page is a place of celebration, a place of news and a place to share in a love for racing; and while we respect that this world is built on different and diverse opinions, any messages posted on this page that are profane and/or derogatory in any way will be removed and reported.
Like each of our fans, Takuma Sato is a patriot and is proud of his home country. Andretti Autosport is proud to have and race with a field of drivers from many different countries and walks of life. For us to censor any one person’s heritage, no matter the day of victory, would go against the beliefs that this country is built on. America is a melting pot and we thrive because we look beyond our past differences and work together to build a better community, a better country and a better world.
We are thankful for the duty and sacrifice of our service men and women. We do everything we can to honor our veterans. We remain proud and will continue to stand behind each of our drivers, and the colors of each of their nations.
It’s a shame that a statement from the team was even needed in the first place and a testament to their commitment to both US veteran and their driver both. A sentiment that, 72 years after WWII, seems altruistic and completely appropriate.
If you’ve listened to our podcasts, then you know I’m a big Anglophile and love all things British. You’ll also know that Paul and I both are huge fans of the Australians. You’ll see my love for the Italians and, in particular, all things Maranello and you might even have seen my recent trip to Belgium with its reverence and delight with the people and local customs. You’ll have heard me bemoan the lack of a French Grand Prix and car in French Racing Blue and how I am equally fond of German racing and the people who live there including Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel.
Formula 1 is a global sport and I respect and appreciate all the drivers and the nations from whence they come. Indycar has become more international by the decade and Fernando Alonso’s presence was yet another good reminder of how global this sport has become in scope even though it is an American series and the Indy 500 on Memorial Day is a very, very “American” event.
As much as I love and respect F1 drivers and the nations they call home, let’s not fool ourselves, I am VERY AMERICAN. I LOVE the UK but not as much as I do America. I respect the hell out of Australia but not as much as I do America. I would expect and respect the exact opposite from an Englishman or Australian. The Indy 500 has a way of reminding us of not only the service men and women who died for our country but that we are all Americans and this is America’s biggest event. Even steeped in all that Americana, I couldn’t be happier for Takuma Sato—the nicest guy on the grid!
For me, the incident with Frei isn’t about America as a melting pot or diversity or trying to find political ammo by divining which party he voted for. The incident is a deeper issue than that and while it may have presented itself in seedy and unsightly racism, I think it would behoove all of us to pull the throttle back on our 800bhp outrage machines.
Taku is a terrific guy and deserving winner. Of that there can be no doubt. Indycar is an international sport with international drivers. There can be no argument over that. Mr. Frei has a visceral relationship with Japan that veils the 72 years that have passed since the brutal Japanese Empire attacked America. One that involves his father, the death of his father’s teammates and the gaping hole left by the brutality of war.
Justification? Of course not. Reason? Most likely. I don’t know Mr. Frei and I am certainly not defending his tweet but Mr. Frei is a human with emotions and an empathetic proximity to death at the hands of the Japanese Empire during WWII. It would seem to me that this raw emotion clouded what otherwise would have been a logical, reasoned, and much more character-revealing tweet from him that might have just as easily congratulated the winner.
Takuma didn’t create his career or win the Indy 500 via social media. He worked his tail off and managed to be at the right team on the right day and with the one Honda engine that was the right shove in the back of his car. He drove a wonderful race and his charm, humble demeanor and character simply underscore how deserving a winner he is.
Conversely, I’m not completely convinced that Mr. Frei’s entire life and career should be destroyed by social media either. I’m also not convinced that his ham fisted and racially charged tweet should be used as some indicator of American racism or intolerance. Foreigners have been winning the US Grand Prix and Indy 500 for years and I have no issue with that and neither does anyone I know. In fact, I would argue that America has fallen in love with Taku and his story and the crowd was delighted with Fernando Alonso making him feel right at home in our country at our race.
This is more than some racist tweeting racial slurs, it has more to do with his orbital reference to WWII and the battle against the Japanese Empire and I am a little surprised no one took the time to try to even understand the impetus for his tweet in any report I’ve read.
Let me reiterate, I wanted a Spanish guy to win the race but couldn’t have been more elated for Takuma Sato who I have massive respect for. The tweet by Mr. Frei was a very stupid thing to do and I think we can all realize that and with a little reserve, we can possibly understand the motive behind it with some modicum of civility in our response.
I don’t know Mr. Frei and I doubt we share the same history, view of politics or penchant for F1 but in the end, I think I can understand his highly offensive tweet. Racing is an international sport and I love that about it. I have tremendous respect for the drivers and the nations they come from and I also understand the emotionally charged outburst of a man who has spent his life living in the penumbra of a brutal and bloody conflict that forever impacted his family. Some wounds never heal and they can convolute our thinking when we get too close to them…even years later when Japan is a tremendous and respected ally of ours.
Does it justify his tweet? Of course not but what would justify my outrage, salacious name calling and calls for his life to be destroyed or death threats? Mr. Feri learned a valuable lesson that Memorial Day belongs to the memory of American service men and women. The Indy 500 belongs to the world. There is a difference and I am sure he knows it now. Can we move on?