I'm disappointed by the reaction against the Tokyo 2020 Mexican Women Softball team

Yesterday there was a controversy because the Mexican Women’s softball team at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics (Wikipedia, Instagram) threw several uniforms and equipment to the trash (source: ESPN). Right now I’m really disappointed with the negative reaction and personal attacks against the members of said team. At the same time, I don’t want to remain silent so I decided to write this post.

Imagine that you live outside of your ancestral country. People see you differently and tell you to go back to the country you came from. This is a reality that inmigrants around the world live through frequently, including Mexicans and their descendants in the US. If this happens to you, it can generate a strong internal reaction. Descendents from inmigrants have to learn to live with and adjust to their multiple identities. In my experience it’s a gradient and I see it with friends that just arrived to the US from Mexico, people like myself who have been in the US for years, those who inmigrated to the US as children, and those who are descendants (2nd generation and beyond). Everyone is different and each one of us identifies with their cultural roots in different ways.

That’s why the experience of Anissa Urtez, one of the members of this team ^[Why Anissa Urtez? She’s the one that shared the most detailed information of what happened through her Instagram stories. Furthermore, Anissa was selected to the ideal women’s softball team for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.], that she describes of growing as an American with Mexican ancestors where she wasn’t considered Mexican enough, American enough, and with brown skin, is totally valid and complicated. If six years ago she decided to be part of a low resources project that aimed to build a Mexican Women’s softball team that could celeberate winning a match, participate in tournaments, win enough in the 2019 Pan Aamerican Games to classify to the Olympics for the first time ever, we have to thank her and value her effort, time, energy, and all that she dedicated towards making this dream a reality. Her participation at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics was never guaranteed.

And they made this dream a reality. As a mexican I’m overwhelmed with emotion and pride ❤️ when I see how they celebrated classifying to the Olympics by beating the Canadian team 2-1. Regrettably they would end up losing the bronze medal match against the same team in Tokyo 2020.

So I’m now filled with sadness to see how the people in power are asking to get them suspended for life and/or take legal action against them because they threw away some uniforms with the Mexican flag (ESPN). They recognized that it was a mistake.

But I strongly think that this wasn’t their mistake only. It was a communication error from the administration if they didn’t explain to them the expectations that:

  • they had to return all the equipment with them without any logistics or financial support to do so
  • the bed covers were not a present like they thought
  • the uniforms hold such a strong emotional value, even those that they didn’t actually use during the Olympics

The administration should have defended them and supported them instead of using them as a piñata and a distraction. Now part of the public is dedicated to attacking them just like Trump attacked/attacks Mexicans (whether they are American or not): that they aren’t Mexicans, that they should leave, that no one wants them, etc. Even some Olympic athletes, that have represented or represent Mexico, have an attitude of: if it was hard for me, it should be hard for you too. That’s the same attitude that I see in the academic realm that is used to make minorities suffer when they already have to fight with less resources for the opportunities others have. It’s an attitude of crushing each other instead of supporting each other so we can fix and learn from our mistakes and grow together.

So my open letter to Anissa Urtez and the rest of the Mexican Women’s softball team from the Tokyo 2020 Olympics is:

Thank you Anissa for representing us with pride and for all the countless hours of effort and sacrifice that you’ve dedicated to this sport and this team.

All Mexicans are humans and humans make mistakes. At a distance it’s clear to me that there was an error in communication and in setting expectations from the part of the administration. If the administration wasn’t going to support you to cover the additional baggage expenses, if they expected you to carry back all your uniforms and equipment, if they knew about the mattress cover, etc, they should have told you so. They should have tried to protect you and your teammates as much as possible and they completely failed you.

You concentrated on performing well on your sport and what you know how to do better than anyone else in Mexico and among Mexican descendants in the US and elsewhere.

I’m really sad that after all you did for representing Mexico now they are using you as a piñata. That others are attacking you on social media and staining your memories of Tokyo 2020.

As a Mexican living in the US that spends part of his free time helping other Mexicans learn what I know how to do, I find it really emotional and motivating to read what it means to you to help guide the next generations in your sport where you are among the best in the world. Please keep it up! Hopefully this whole situation won’t discourage you and you’ll keep raising high the Mexican flag.

With support (well, hugs like we say in Mexico) from a random corner in the web in Baltimore.

You are a Mexican badass champion!!! 🇲🇽 💪🏽

I hope that Anissa and the team, as well as the future generations of the team, feels the same way that she felt not so long ago.


This blog post was made possible thanks to:


[1] C. Boettiger. knitcitations: Citations for 'Knitr' Markdown Files. R package version 1.0.12. 2021. URL: https://CRAN.R-project.org/package=knitcitations.

[2] H. Wickham, W. Chang, R. Flight, K. Müller, et al. sessioninfo: R Session Information. R package version 1.2.2. 2021. URL: https://CRAN.R-project.org/package=sessioninfo.

[3] Y. Xie, A. P. Hill, and A. Thomas. blogdown: Creating Websites with R Markdown. Boca Raton, Florida: Chapman and Hall/CRC, 2017. ISBN: 978-0815363729. URL: https://bookdown.org/yihui/blogdown/.


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Leonardo Collado-Torres
Leonardo Collado-Torres
Investigator @ LIBD, Assistant Professor, Department of Biostatistics @ JHBSPH

#rstats @Bioconductor/🧠 genomics @LieberInstitute/@lcgunam @jhubiostat @jtleek @andrewejaffe alumni/@LIBDrstats @CDSBMexico co-founder

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