It's common practice, within the media industry, to fix simple grammar mistakes when quoting players who take the time to talk on the record. For the most part, it's standard operating procedure.
Not doing so can be a deliberate breach of etiquette. It can be construed as an insult when the player involved is one who is speaking English as a second language, trying to communicate with a reporter who doesn't speak any Spanish.
That's exactly what a Houston Chronicle writer did recently to Houston Astros player Carlos Gomez.
At an intersection of sports, culture and media, the Max y Marly Podcast, hosted by Max Bretos and Marly Rivera, takes a stand on behalf of Latino athletes, many of whom still struggle to communicate effectively with sports media in a foreign country. Teams were not required by Major League Baseball to make professional Spanish-to-English translators available until this year. Previously it was often teammates or other staff who would provide translations. Other times, players would gain a reputation for being distant and uncommunicative, even the if issue was simply that they didn't understand English well. Players who do attempt to speak in their new language have to worry about making mistakes and how media will portray them.
Rivera points out that she has often fixed the grammar of MLB players who are native English speakers, establishing that it is a professional courtesy. "You're not changing the spirit of what was said," Rivera states. She makes it plain that there is no reason to deny any player this assistance, unless it is to make that person look bad.
"Why would you do that?" Rivera questions.
"What baseball needs is an understanding of the baseball players from Latin America," maintains Bretos. "There is no explanation for this."
The podcast producers tried to contact and get comment from the writer involved, Brian T. Smith, but he didn't respond to requests to appear on the show. However, Rivera was able to get an exclusive interview, in Spanish, with Gomez, who explained that he found out about the incident when other Houston writers came to him and apologized for what that reporter had published.
The Astros outfielder also explained how gratified he has been to occasionally find writers who try their best to speak Spanish with him, even just a few words. Gomez said he understands that many writers are more considerate, but that this situation seemed disrespectful not only to him in particular, but also to all Latino players who might have left their native countries at a young age and speak broken English.
With their knowledge of media systems, Bretos and Rivera explain that the incident that embarrassed Gomez was not caused solely by the writer, but also by the editors at the Houston Chronicle, who published the piece. It's a thought-provoking podcast episode, further enhanced by an interview with Britni de la Cretaz, a journalist who explains that the field of sports journalism can be dominated by white men, and that too often, others' perspectives can get lost in an environment that lacks diversity.