Nationals

Nationals

In the last few weeks, baseball has been haunted by its players’ former teenage mistakes.

With Trea Turner as the latest in a series of MLB big-names that had their old—and more importantly, offensive—tweets re-circulated, it’s important to many in DC that the issue is not dismissed.

One of these people aiming to make things right and educate the baseball community at large is the Nationals’ own Sean Doolittle, who was named to this year’s All-Star Game.

Doolittle posted a very insightful thread on Twitter on Monday evening that seemed long overdue for many. In the conversation, he touches on tenets that may be left out of the conversation, such as the social status privilege that athletes experience throughout their lives, and how it affects their point of view and accountability.

You can read his entire thread here. It’s also consolidated and separated by paragraph below.

“It’s been a tough couple of weeks for baseball on twitter. It sucks to see racist and homophobic language coming from inside our league - a league I’m so proud to be a part of that I’ve worked really hard to make a more accepting and inclusive place for all our fans to enjoy.

 

We have to start caring as much about the content of the posts as we do about when they were made and how they came to light.

The answer isn’t for athletes to leave social media. Social media can be great for an athlete. I met my wife on twitter (long story). It helps athletes share their stories and personalities and connect with their community. Besides, it’s not like you can accidentally post a slur.

A lot of the tweets that have surfaced are from several years ago - from a time in their lives when they may not have realized the impact those words have. But as you learn from and grow out of that youthful indiscretion, delete those posts to reflect that growth.

Between all the people you meet and the places you go, there is a lot of opportunity for personal growth in baseball. It’s entirely possible that those old posts no longer reflect that person’s views. But actions will speak louder than words.

It’s a reminder that words matter, and that the impact the of words matter more than the intent. Rather than feeling like this platform makes us targets and we have to censor ourselves, find a way to use the platform to lift others up and make a positive impact.

It can be tough for athletes to understand why these words are so hurtful. Most of us have been at the top of the food chain since HS, immune to insults. When all you’ve known is success and triumph it can be difficult to empathize with feeling vulnerable or marginalized.

Homophobic slurs are still used to make people feel soft or weak or otherwise inferior - which is bull****. Some of the strongest people I know are from the LGBTQIA community. It takes courage to be your true self when your identity has been used as an insult or a pejorative.

It’s a privilege to play in the major leagues and we have an obligation to leave the game better than we found it. There’s no place for racism, insensitive language or even casual homophobia. I hope we can learn from this and make the MLB a place where all our fans feel welcome.”

Well spoken, Sean.

Doolittle mentions that the end goal is not for athletes to stop using social media, as some have suggested. The pattern of people who are not from marginalized groups posting insensitive statements during their teenage years is not a new one. It is not an individual failure, but an institutional problem.

Sports, sadly, cannot be a politics-free zone as long as minority fans are not able to enjoy the game without fear of discrimination.

 

So, how do we fix it?

First, we start providing athletes with the knowledge they need about the diversity around them in the locker room and in their communities. Many people simply have not experienced living in or representing a city where many of its residents are different from them. Opening dialogues is important; the willingness to listen, just as much.

It’s also essential that we hold athletes accountable for what they say without demonizing them. Yes, people make mistakes as a result of growing up and working/playing an insulated and often toxic environment. But, if we accept it as normal, it will continue. 

This does not happen through mandatory and often avoided “diversity training.” It also does not happen by expecting people from the minority to do all the work to educate those more privileged. 

Like any good dialogue, it happens by people like Sean starting the conversation, and their peers and teammates asking thoughtful questions to better understand, in hopes that the behavior will stop.

For now, Sean’s positivity and openness is a more than welcome step forward.
 

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