By now, many of you know that there have been a few young MLB players who have gotten into trouble for certain things that they were not perceptive enough to scrub from their social media accounts prior to becoming a public figure. I won’t link to the ones by Josh Hader and Sean Newcomb, but the latest was Trea Turner of the Washington Nationals. There is a theme to these situations, which Craig Calcaterra sums up as such:
1. Tweets uncovered;
2. Player offers apology of moderate-at-best acceptability, with some reference to that not being “who I am,” while not explaining who he was when he made the tweets, why he thought they were acceptable then and what has changed in his life to make him different now, apart from being caught being a jackwagon six or seven years ago;
3. MLB ordering sensitivity training or what have you.
To a smaller extent, Kyle Schwarber also appeared to have one of these not-so-savory tweets from once upon a time, but I think the reason why he wasn’t dragged through the coals (other than the inherent bias we have for guys wearing the Cubs uniform) is because this is a one-off, whereas the three other gentlemen mentioned did it repeatedly to illustrate a pattern of behavior. Perhaps Jon Lester has the best policy:
If you’re on Twitter, please spend the 5 minutes it takes to scrub your account of anything you wouldn’t want plastered next to your face on the front page of a newspaper. Better yet, don’t say stupid things in the first place. Too many young guys getting burned. #themoreyouknow
— Jon Lester (@JLester34) July 30, 2018
Although he later adds…
Listen I’m far from the sharpest tool in the shed and there’s certainly no halo above my head (pardon the rhyme) but I know some of these guys are great dudes who just had lapses in judgement.
— Jon Lester (@JLester34) July 30, 2018
I’ll take a step back and talk about myself first, because as they say, judge not lest ye be judged (so I’m inviting you to judge me).
After all, I was a young(er) man once, prone to rash and impulsive decisions that were not always borne of reason. I have said and done things that I regret for various reasons, and there is probably evidence of this somewhere on the internet if you wish to dig deep enough. I grew up in a time when it was “okay” to tell offensive jokes, particularly of the racist and homophobic variety. I don’t think I’m racist or homophobic, but I did tell those jokes, unfortunately, and it’s something that kids (even me) did to elicit laughs and try to belong.
It is not okay to tell those kinds of jokes or to speak in those ways anymore, and I would argue that it was never okay in the first place. It took me many years to learn this, but I have always been empathetic. I learned why it was a very bad look to have a white history month or a straight pride parade from friends who belong to marginalized groups, and I also learned why it was offensive and hurtful to say certain words. Because it is hard to change one’s habits overnight, this took a lot of work to modify my behaviors, but I did it because it was worth it to honor my friends and the communities that they represent. It also makes sense from a personal standpoint since I am Asian, and I believe I should be supportive and tolerant here. I believe it stems from something that I was brought up with, not necessarily from my parents (who I have come to accept as somewhat xenophobic as Chinese-American immigrants), but more so from the teachers and friends I have made over the years…if you think what you were planning to say is hurtful, then it is best to leave it unsaid.
(I do have to add that there are probably times when I will have said something a bit crass, and people call me out on it, so I’ll fix it because I saw the explanation as to why it was inappropriate. Gotta keep learning!)
I cannot speak for Hader, Newcomb, or Turner. I want to assume the best and hope that they are truly remorseful and that they are now decent human beings who are great teammates. The way their apology statements read, however, is worthy of some scorn, as they do come off as more “oops, I got caught” and deflective than true apologies that explain why they know they were wrong. Even Jon Lester’s tweet, while coming from a good place, reads like “hey, you better beware” than “this is why what you say is bad and how you can change it.”
I think it is a good thing for the marketing of MLB and their athletes to continue using social media to reach their fans. I do believe that sensitivity training should be preemptive rather than reactive, though, with perhaps a league-sponsored retreat for new signees (after the draft or international signing) before they are assigned to their various locales for development. After all, part of their duties besides being good at baseball is to be good ambassadors of the game. It may also be good for sports agencies and team public relations to help their athletes cleanse their social media accounts, not just to keep them out of trouble, but to help the athletes understand the ramifications of their actions, both positive and negative.
This is obviously a work in progress for MLB, and I am also a work in progress not affiliated with MLB. I don’t know the motives behind digging up old tweets, but even if someone were to dig into my past, they would be able to see the evolution of my social media presence, where you can see right around where I realized that it was probably a good idea to proofread and reflect on what I say before I hit “send.” I think I have imparted this lesson well upon my son, and I hope that these “lapses in judgment” will become a thing of the past. No matter their background, parents can teach their children right and wrong, and at some point, the “youthful mistake” excuse will no longer be valid–not that it is now. Honestly, we all should have just known better.