sammy sosa

Sammy Sosa in 2004.

photo: Getty

When retired Dominican baseball player Sammy Sosa sat down with ESPN Deportes to talk about his home run legacy, he didn't know people would be paying more attention to the color of his skin than what he had to say.

The world was already shocked when Sosa stepped back into the spotlight post-retirement looking several shades lighter than when he was one of baseball's brightest stars in 2009.

sammy sosa skin
photo: Getty

Back then, Sosa admitted to using a cream with a bleaching side effect on Univision's "Primer Impacto." "It's a cream that I have, that I apply every night before bed to soften [my skin], and it has lightened it a bit."

When he was asked about his fans in the Dominican Republic accusing him of rejecting his blackness by bleaching his skin, Sosa denied it completely. Still, what he said raised some red flags. He told "Primer Impacto" that he was proud to be black, but added, "Do I want to look better? I've done that my whole life. I don't see anything wrong with that, and I have not forgotten where I come from." By better, we hope he didn't mean lighter skin.

Flash forward to this 2017 interview for this year's Home Run Derby, and Sosa had us shook yet again with a pink complexion and an outfit to match.

The rose-colored cast could have just been the result of a poor foundation match, but the internet wasted no time in roasting him over his new skin tone.

But the dramatic lightening of his skin is no laughing matter. Even if Sosa himself is convinced that bleaching his skin is not an act of self-hate, this still adds salt to the wounds of countless people struggling to accept the color of their skin.

This is especially important in the Dominican Republic and other Latin American countries where colorism still rears its ugly head, thanks to colonialism and slavery. It's this history that makes it hard to believe Sosa didn't bleach his skin on purpose.

Successful Afro-Latino role models with dark skin are hard to come by in the media, and while our youth desperately needs them, scandals like this should serve as a reminder that self-love starts at home.

While we can't read Sosa's mind, one thing's for sure — we still have a lot of work to do in terms of representation. Fortunately, social media is helping to tear these walls down. Let's keep using it for good and be mindful of those still working on loving themselves completely.

You can watch the interview that reignited Sosa's skin-bleaching controversy below.