Twitter users shine a light on the dark side of baseball culture

Two baseball fans retweeted old Tweets by Major League Baseball players Josh Hader and Sean Newcomb as a way to expose and begin a dialogue around baseball's toxic culture.

John Bazemore/AP
Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Sean Newcomb attends batting practice before of a baseball game against the Miami Marlins Monday, July 30, 2018, in Atlanta. Newcomb recently came under fire for a slew of bigoted tweets he once sent out as a teenager.

A pair of Twitter users whose posts exposing offensive tweets by baseball players went viral over the weekend say their aim was not malicious but to give fans a fuller picture of who they're cheering for, and to expose the sport's "toxic" culture.

In exclusive interviews with The Associated Press, both users said they weren't looking for the years-old tweets from Milwaukee Brewers reliever Josh Hader or Atlanta Braves pitcher Sean Newcomb , but when the posts came across their timelines, they felt obligated to share them.

Kevin Jenkins, a teenage follower, wasn't looking through Hader's twitter feed as he watched the All-Star Game earlier this month. But then they began popping up on his Twitter feed. After seeing the pitcher's racist, sexist and homophobic remarks, it was hard for Kevin to remain a fan.

"Before the tweets, I thought he was a cool guy," Kevin said via direct message on Twitter. "An amazing pitcher and an even better person.... After the tweets, I mean ... It's hard to defend the guy. My opinion has definitely changed."

Kevin compiled screenshots of a handful of Hader's offensive tweets and created a post. That tweet has garnered nearly 6,000 likes. He said his intent wasn't to dig up Hader's past to bring him down.

"I still feel that he's an amazing pitcher, but the things he said were inexcusable," Kevin said. "None of us know if he's really changed since then. I felt it was important for people to see the tweets and make their own judgment."

After Hader's tweets came to light, the reliever was swift to apologize, saying the posts were a youthful mistake, written in 2011 and 2012, when he was a 17-year-old and long before he was a major leaguer. For Jenkins, who is 16 and white, the explanation didn't fly.

"I'm younger than he was at the time, and no one would ever see anything like that from me," Kevin said. "It's horrid."

Over the weekend, old, offensive tweets from Newcomb and Washington Nationals shortstop Trea Turner also resurfaced. Twitter user @NatsSquid posted about Newcomb after seeing one of the tweets on his timeline and did a search to see if there were others.

"Baseball culture is toxic and I want players to be held accountable for what they say," said @NatsSquid, who spoke to The AP via direct message on Twitter and declined to give a reporter his name identifying himself only as "a DC-area male."

"There is deeply rooted racism in baseball as well as homophobia and sexism," he said. "I would like baseball culture to change and be more accepting for everyone."

Despite the rivalry between the Nationals and Braves – currently fighting for position in the National League East – @NatsSquid said his posts were not a form of fan warfare.

"It absolutely had nothing to due (sic) with the Braves," he said. "When I tweeted out Newcomb's tweets, I didn't even remember that he played for the Braves. It wasn't about the game or the team, it was about him as a person. I was also really disappointed by the tweets that came out with Trea Turner and I thought I could expect better from him."

@NatsSquid said he was aware of the Hader controversy when he tweeted about Newcomb. When asked if he thought this weekend's posts were the work of copycats, Jenkins said he hadn't considered it but doesn't encourage it.

"I'm hoping people don't continue to do this to athletes as a way to get attention because that wasn't my intention at all," Kevin said.

The act of exposing tweets is recognition that racism is everybody's problem, said University of Hartford sociologist Woody Doane.

"Going to a racist insult is something that white Americans have in their toolkit," Professor Doane said. "As much as we like to say otherwise, I don't think that's something we've gotten rid of. If racism is going to end, white people need to call each other out on it. One of the elements of white privilege is not having to care about racism."

This story was reported by The Associated Press. 

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Twitter users shine a light on the dark side of baseball culture
Read this article in
https://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Society/2018/0731/Twitter-users-shine-a-light-on-the-dark-side-of-baseball-culture
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today
https://www.csmonitor.com/subscribe