No suspension. No fine. And no insulting tweets from President Trump.
Brewers pitcher Josh Hader will only receive a proverbial slap on the wrist for racist, anti-gay, misogynistic tweets he made when he was teenager. Major League Baseball announced Hader is required to participate in sensitivity training for the posts.
Hader’s derogatory tweets, which date back to as early as 2011, include several uses of the N-Word and support for the Ku Klux Klan. In one tweet, Hader posted “I hate gay people.” Hader apologized and said the tweets stemmed from immaturity.
“I was 17 years old,” Hader told reporters. “As a child, I was immature. I obviously said some things that were inexcusable. That doesn’t reflect on who I am as a person today. ”
The resurfacing of Hader’s tweets will certainly be an inconvenience for the 27-year-old lefty, who has since deleted his twitter account. A sea of reporters crowded Hader’s locker room following a rough outing at the all-star game to ask him about the tweets. The story will likely follow him to ever ballpark he visits for the rest of this season.
But make no mistake about it, as long as Hader still possess zip on his 94 MPH fastball, his job is safe. Hader has arguably been one of the best relievers in baseball this season—posting a 1.50 earned run average at the All-Star break. Perhaps the Brewers will look to trade Hader following the backlash. But with the team sitting just two and a half games behind first place in NL Central, that seems unlikely. .
When juxtaposing the mostly unscathed path that lies ahead for Hader with the harsh treatment black NFL players received for protesting racial injustice during the national anthem, you can’t help but question the long-time role sports has played as “The Great Unifier.”
Risk management is a harsh reality in sports. If teams think you can perform, leagues are more likely to look away from past heinous acts. It’s why an over-the-hill Ray Rice couldn’t find an NFL team after being cut for slugging fiancée in 2014, but the Cincinnati Bengals had no problem drafting 20-year-old Joe Mixon after video surfaced of him punching a woman in college. Teams are only willing to take risks on players with questionable character as long the player can help them win.
But leagues are setting a bad precedent in how it handles players who exhibit racist behavior. Far too often, players who make anti-black statements are eventually welcomed back with open arms and little penalty.
The racist pasts of former NFL players Riley Cooper and Richie Incognito didn’t stop teams from signing them to lucrative contract extensions. Cooper was given a five-year, $25 million deal by the Eagles a year after calling a black man the N-word at a concert in 2013.
Like Hader, Cooper was also sent to mandatory sensitivity training and faced no fine or suspension for the incident. Incognito missed a year of football following the Jonathan Martin bullying scandal. But after a strong season in 2015 season with the Bills, the team inked him to a three-year, $15 million contract extension. After a brief retirement and stint in a mental hospital, Incognito is hoping to get another shot with an NFL team. Incognito allegedly called Jacksonville Jaguars star Yannick Ngakoue several racial slurs in his last appearance on the gridiron.
While time will tell how things will turn out for Hader, recent history suggests he doesn’t have too much to worry about. Rookie quarterback Josh Allen also got caught up in a twitter controversy when old racist posts resurfaced in April. The firestorm didn’t stop the Bills from taking him 7th overall in this year’s NFL draft.
Hader is right in saying his tweets were “inexcusable.” But it is important to note the tweets happened while he was in high school. It’s probably for the better that we’re not all judged by our views and actions from when we were 17. With time and life experience, people can change.
One of Hader’s black teammates and fellow All-Star Lorenzo Cain lauded Hader as a “great teammate” and a “great guy.” There is also a larger conversation that’s needed about how leagues can legislate players’ past social media posts. I’m sure a deep dive into several guys’ timelines would find a bunch of unsavory statements.
But something is wrong when Hader is facing virtually no penalty for being racist, but Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid can peacefully protest racism and intolerance and be out of a job. Others who have participated in anthem demonstrations have been called “sons of b****s” by the President and told to leave the country.
It’s sad to think they could have been better off if they preached hatred instead of equality.