Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

'Two Outs:' Sportswriter explains how she changed Jon Lester's perspective on baseball players' homophobic tweets

Alex Reimer
August 02, 2018 - 4:33 pm

Something rare happened with Jon Lester on Twitter this week. A sportswriter named Kelly Wallace, the editor-in-chief of Expanded Roster, took issue with Lester’s original comments about the barrage of old homophobic and racist tweets from baseball stars Josh Hader, Sean Newcomb and Trae Turner that were recently resurfaced.

“If you’re on Twitter, please spend the 5 minutes it takes to scrub your account of anything you wouldn’t want plastered next to your face on the front page of a newspaper,” Lester wrote. “Better yet, don’t say stupid things in the first place. Too many young guys getting burned. #themoreyouknow.”

Wallace responded to Lester, pointing out she was disappointed he didn’t address the content of the offensive tweets. They went on to engage in a productive conversation, which is almost unheard of in today's polarized age. “You’re right, reputations come in a distant second as far as I’m concerned,” Lester wrote back. 

In an interview on “Two Outs” this week, Wallace said she was floored with Lester’s accessibility and willingness to listen. 

“I was pretty shocked, to be honest with you,” she said. “Most days, you don't wake up expecting Jon Lester to respond to anything you say. I thought it was great. ... I remember being super impressed, just the fact he was willing to take criticism and go back-and-forth.”

While Wallace doesn’t think the ballplayers should be excoriated for their teenage bigotry, she said she wants to see them acknowledge the harm behind their words. 

“I think the difference between Trae Turner's apology, and let's say Josh Hader's, for example, is Trae Turner said it didn't matter when I said what I said,” she explained. “The problem is with what I said. I think that's the difference. Obviously, we all know how old he was. When you're younger, sometimes you do things that are hateful or ignorant and you maybe you don't fully grasp what you're saying. But again, please tell us that. The difference is just saying, 'What I said was wrong." Not, 'I'm a different person than when I said it. What I want to hear is they understand why the words were wrong, and not being caught was the problem.”

Given that MLB’s average viewer is 57 years old, per Sports Business Journal, the league needs to reach out to younger and more diverse audiences. Wallace says she thinks these rediscovered tweets harm that effort.

“Baseball continues to say, 'We want to bring in younger people, we want to bring in millennials, we want to bring in a new audience.' But the reality is, people are diverse,” she said. “Part of that audience is going to include people of color, gay people. If you make whole swaths of the population feel unwelcome by not addressing something as simple as a blatantly homophobic tweet, you're doing your mission of expanding the sport a disservice.” 

Related content:

Jon Lester offers needed perspective on offensive tweets from players

Sean Newcomb apologizes for past offensive tweets minutes after pitching near no-hitter