Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Jon Lester offers needed perspective on offensive tweets from players

Alex Reimer
July 31, 2018 - 11:02 am
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Jon Lester addressed the string of recently resurfaced racist and homophobic tweets from three upstart baseball stars with nuance that’s often absent from our polarizing political discourse. 

Over the weekend, Twitter users posted old tweets from Braves lefty Sean Newcomb and Nationals third baseman Trae Tuner that use racial slurs and demean homosexuals. Much like Brewers reliever Josh Hader, who saw his old offensive tweets plastered all over the Internet during the All-Star Game, the messages were sent when Newcomb and Turner were teenagers. 

The Braves and Nationals each issued statements, in which both players apologize for their language. They insist they’ve changed and condemn their then-ignorance. People can do lots of growing up from their late-teens to mid-20s. Newcomb, Turner and Hader should be judged on how they conduct themselves going forward.

Still, the existence of these tweets speaks to the culture of casual homophobia that’s engrained in locker rooms and high school cafeterias across the country. In my high school, at least, homophobic insults were tossed out with regularity.

With the stupidity of teenage boys in mind, it’s surprising that all athletes who used social media during their younger years don’t go back and delete old tweets. That’s the point Lester first brought up Monday. 

“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.”

Some took issue with Lester’s reaction, accusing him of making the issue more about the discovery of old tweets than their existence in the first place. When a gay Cubs fan, Kelly Wallace, confronted Lester with her disappointment, the left-handed hurler clarified his remarks.

“Hey Jon. I’m a big fan of yours, and I just wanted to say that the tweets hurt a lot for fans like me who maybe are gay or are the targets of slurs like the ones that were said,” Wallace responded. “It sucks to be a fan of something and hear stuff like that from people you admire.”

“You’re right, reputations come in a distant second as far as I’m concerned,” Lester wrote back

It was a productive conversation that addresses both sides of the issue. While nobody should be judged solely on tweets they sent in their teenage years, blindly dismissing the messages as inconsequential diminishes the hurtful language they contain. Homophobic slurs are used to cut people down. It’s worth spending time discussing those words, rather than outright dismissing them as ignorant teenage barbs. 

In comparison to the NBA and NFL, baseball doesn’t feature many players who engage in social and political discourse. As one of the best pitchers of his era, Lester’s perspective, and ability to listen, is welcomed. 

Related content:

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

Brewers fans give Josh Hader ovation in first appearance after racist tweets were discovered