Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise

Francisco (not Frankie) Lindor, Roberto (not Bobby) Clemente, and the unintentional disrespect of Americanizing Latin names

Clemente dealt with it then, Lindor now. Plenty of others, too.
Clemente dealt with it then, Lindor now. Plenty of others, too.
Illustration: AP

Nicknames are endearing, but they’re not always respectful.

Some of our homies, the one we’re extremely comfortable around, are allowed to call us certain things that are a variation of our given names. If your first name starts with an “A,” and your middle or last name starts with a “J,” it’s highly likely that you become an “A.J.” for the rest of your life. Anyone named Christopher, Christian, Khristian, or Kristian is automatically a Chris, Khris, or Kris. And my man Dexter instantly becomes ‘Dex,’ because it also just sounds cooler.

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Now, it could be different with Latin names used within the United States.

In America, José might become Joey, Evelyn is then Eve, Isabella morphs into Izzy or Belle, and Ricardo is shortened to Rick, Ricky, Rich, or just Richard. It would honestly take weeks, if not months, to compile a thorough list of Americanized variations of names coming from Latin cultures.

So when Francisco Lindor says to please call him Francisco, and not Frankie, people should respect that, and do as he asks.

It was a legitimately thoughtful question from long-time New York Mets play-by-play voice Howie Rose on Thursday that sparked a conversation on social media regarding Lindor’s preference to be called by his actual name, as opposed to a condensed remix. Frankie, naturally, is meant to be endearing. Say it out loud: Frankie. Could you really be pissed at someone you call Frankie? (Lindor’s mother probably called him by his full first-and-middle name, “Francisco Miguel,” at times. Trust me; it happens to all of us.)

But when Lindor was asked about what he prefers, he said Francisco — because of this Americanization that often happens with Latin names.

“I like my name,” Lindor said. “Frankie, it’s a little more Americanized for me. Frankie, it was fine. I never complained … but now I want my name, I want Francisco.”

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It happens. You get into a new job — in Lindor’s case, it’s as a Major League Baseball player in Cleveland, over 1,800 miles away from Caguas, Puerto Rico — and you’re looking to acclimate yourself as smoothly as possible. You’re probably surrounded by more white Americans than you ever have been, and you’re not looking to start problems because you have enough to worry about already. They start calling you nicknames, not because they’re all trying to be assholes or even disregard your roots, but because it’s considered a normal part of American culture, especially among men.

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Think about many of the two-syllable full names you hear in America and where they come from. You can go down the list: Brad Pitt, Shaun White, Tom Hanks, Mike Trout, Brett Favre, Tom Cruise, and so on. But what we should understand is that the shortening of names from Latin cultures is disrespectful, unless the person expressly doesn’t mind you calling her or him by said nickname. Roberto Clemente was mocked for his Latino heritage by baseball writers when he played from 1955-1972, and it was common for journalists and others to call him “Bobby,” of which he never approved, for the same reasons the 27-year-old Lindor explained above. In other instances, Marc Anthony evidently prefers “Marc Anthony” to “Marco Antonio” (not to be confused with Marco Antonio Solís), just like how Joey Diaz goes by “Joey” over “José Antonio.”

But unless otherwise noted, a Latin name is a Latin name. Moreover, a given name is a given name, and referring to them as such is out of respect for them, their family, their roots, and their culture. Real equality is more than just tolerating your neighbors because of the distinctive cuisine they could provide. It’s about allowing them to express themselves, and for you to have enough respect to listen, take note, and act.

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And shoutout to Mr. Rose for his genuine curiosity. Him asking the question is part of the solution, not the problem.