For many MLB fans, it’s become a familiar pattern – a baseball player, typically in his mid-twenties, has his old, offensive tweets unearthed, and becomes just one of many prominent athletes who have been “exposed” for being racist and homophobic.
Sean Newcomb, starting pitcher for the Atlanta Braves, is one such player, having used a series of racist and homophobic slurs in a series of tweets from about seven years ago. These tweets were uncovered during Newcomb’s start for the Braves on July 29; however, to his credit, Newcomb did quickly apologize in front of the media soon after the conclusion of the game demonstrating regret over the post, emphasizing his change in maturity since his original posting of said tweet in high school.
This last statement is a common one among those baseball players who have had such tweets uncovered. Indeed, for all of these players, the tweets in question seemed to have occurred when they were all still seniors in high school. A common line of defense is that these players were “young” and “stupid” when they had first posted the tweets, and that these tweets did not reflect their true character – especially seven years later.
Now, I’m in high school myself. And personally, I believe these players when they say that they were young and immature when they first posted those tweets. From what I’ve seen, most of the tweets are either quoting song lyrics or using offensive jokes and slurs that are specifically targeted playfully towards friends, not complete strangers. I’ve heard the exact same language, the exact same comments thrown around all over my school among friends and classmates – and as with these baseball players, none of these comments are meant to specifically disparage someone for their race or gender.
Most of the tweets that I’ve seen are from these baseball players joking around with friends as high school seniors. These players were immature. They had no idea whether they would become the high-profile athletes that they are today.
Many fans, despite this, are still calling these players racist and homophobic. They deny that these players could have really been immature teenagers when they made these comments, and that they could have changed and matured in the seven years since. This, I think, is wrong.
Making offensive jokes and comments, if not done with malicious intent, does not inherently make one racist. It’s wrong, of course, because it’s still offensive – but it doesn’t make one inherently racist. If it did, then those same fans should be attacking almost every teen with an immature sense of humor across the nation right now. Not to mention – it’s been seven years since these players posted those tweets. To believe that they are still just as immature as they were back then would be foolish.
So for players like Sean Newcomb, sure, what they said was offensive, and wrong. Yet they were 17. They were immature. They were brought up in a culture where making such offensive remarks is not only condoned, but encouraged as a way of fitting in with peers.
The statements these players made as teens were offensive – there’s no getting around that. But to continuously label these players as racist for these comments clearly made in jest and to assume that these players would have the exact same mindset as when they first posted these tweets seven or eight years ago? That, too, is incorrect.
Brandon Kim, Grade 10
Culver City High School