A couple weeks ago, the MLB had a little bit of a crisis on its hands during the biggest weekend of its season. In the midst of the All Star Game, the prime event of the summer for the sport, Twitter was lit ablaze, but not because of the performance of the players. It was the surprise resurfacing of old tweets by Milwaukee Brewers relief pitcher Josh Hader that brought the attention off of the game.
The tweets in question were homophobic, sexist, and racist. They occurred during his teenage years, primarily 2011. You would think that someone would have seen these tweets before. Hader, a native of Anne Arundel County, Maryland, has been a part of 3 teams since he was drafted in 2012. To think that there was no type of social media vetting that raised any type of concern is the first sign of a misstep of the system.
But hindsight is 20/20. The important thing is that the MLB had the opportunity to handle the situation with tact and an appropriate amount of punishment. However, they did not. The resurfacing of the tweets, and the subsequent uproar, prompted this statement from the MLB.
“During last night’s game we became aware of Mr. Hader’s unacceptable social media comments in years past and have since been in communication with the Brewers regarding our shared concerns. After the game, Mr. Hader took the necessary step of expressing remorse for his highly offensive and hurtful language, which fails to represent the values of our game and our expectations for all those who are a part of it. The Office of the Commissioner will require sensitivity training for Mr. Hader and participation in MLB’s diversity and inclusion initiatives.”
For goodness sakes. The punishment for his past bigotry is sensitivity training. Measly sensitivity training. I’ve had worse punishments than that for being late to practice. The issue here is that this is in no way a deterrent for any future actions for future players. Imagine if you’re a draft prospect with racist tweets lying around somewhere on the Twitter-verse. This news is music to your racist ears. This makes it apparent that as long as you put up an apology that is perceived as remorseful, that everything will be forgiven. This precedent the MLB has now put forward not holding Josh Hader for his past tweets is dangerous.
Arguments were made in favor of Josh Hader. People on Twitter (and probably Curt Schilling) were coming to his defense, saying that he should not face any type of punishment because he made these tweets when he was a teenager. That the comments he made on the internet when he was 17 are not a reflection of what he is now. That the racism he showed is a part of growing up and he needs a chance to grow past it.
A couple things to this line of thinking. I am not concerned with trying to figure out whether or not Josh Hader is still racist. He seems to have not been abandoned by his Black teammates, so there’s that. The issue is that people seem to equate racism during their juvenile years as a part of growing up. No. That is unequivocally not it. Blatant bigotry of any type is something that needs to be nipped in the bud as soon as it appears. It’s not a phase that the people just go through like dying their hair or bedazzling. That is a sneaky way of attempting to normalize racism as just something that “everyone goes through.” It is not, and will not be treated as such.
The “punishment” by the MLB was not the end of the matter. This past Saturday, Hader made his return back to the mound in front of his own fans in Milwaukee. What he was treated to did not come as a surprise to me, but was disturbing and unnerving nonetheless. As he took the mound, he was treated to a rousing standing ovation from the hometown fans, like he was a local hero who had just saved Timmy after he fell in the well. He was greeted with a disgusting amount of support for overtly racist, sexist, and homophobic comments, as though it was something that he should be proud of.
The sympathy shown to Hader is indicative of a large problem with the United States and how certain athletes are treated by the fans aka the citizens of the country. When NFL athletes kneel to protest racism and police brutality during the anthem, they are rained upon by a chorus of boos and lambasted by the president of the country. They are not given the same treatment as Hader was, who did nothing to deserve any type of respect for his comments. The enabling of the racism that Hader showed when he was younger also serves another purpose. The feelings of those who are affected by the type of bigotry that he showed in those tweets don’t matter. When you cheer someone like that, for the actions that they made, it is a slap in the face for those who are affected personally by the kind of bigotry that he showed when he was 17.
It’s not enough to just place him sensitivity training. A real statement should have been made saying that these types of tweets will not be tolerated in any sort of way. Sensitivity training is a slap on the wrist, and a slap in the face to minorities, women, and the LGBTQ+ community that were fans of the MLB.