We can evolve over the course of our lives.
The Apostle Paul became a bedrock of the Christian faith after zealously persecuting Christians when he was known as Saul of Tarsus. Rosa Parks was a law-abiding seamstress who sat where she was told before demonstrating defiance that helped spark the Civil Rights Movement. Jeffrey Wigand willingly accepted a tobacco company’s paychecks until his conscience led him to be a famous whistleblower.
George Bernard Shaw wrote that “progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” Our society was built on a series of faulty belief systems regarding race, gender and sexual orientation, and we haven’t fully dismantled them yet.
So old tweets shouldn’t be the concern. The Twitterverse contains an abundance of current content that’s still racist, still misogynistic and still homophobic.
Nationals shortstop Trea Turner — like Braves pitcher Sean Newcomb, Brewers pitcher Josh Hader, Bills quarterback Josh Allen and Bucks rookie Donte DiVincenzo before him — said his wrongheaded social media posts from the past don’t reflect him in the present.
“I don’t think I’ve ever had those views that people are saying about me,” Turner told reporters Tuesday.
For argument’s sake, let’s say the 25-year-old Turner actually held hateful views about women, homosexuals and people of color. Let’s say Hader was a genuine KKK sympathizer and DiVincenzo was an honest-to-goodness homophobe. Let’s say these athletes were 100 percent authentic every time they sounded like hatemongers.
If that’s the case and their beliefs truly have evolved, we should be thankful.
But they need to pitch in and help transform group members left behind. Especially those who are suffering misshaped views in their formative years.
Hader attended high school in nearby Anne Arundel County, where the NAACP says black students at another school suffered daily abuse and humiliation this year. Jezebel.com noted that some of the vilest and virulent racist tweets following President Obama’s re-election came from teenagers.
Their accounts often featured imagery of their high schools’ sports teams.
Youthful ignorance and indiscretion account only for a portion. Some become grown-up bigots, evidenced by the surge in hate groups since November 2016. For every Turner, Hader and Allen who say they support racial equality and social justice, a number of avowed supremacists spew invective, epithets and violent imagery.
For teenagers who think it’s a joke, perhaps athletes like Turner can convince them otherwise. Hateful words can cause hurt and pain, literally when they spur action.
“I think going forward I can do a lot more things,” Turner said. “I just need to assess what’s important to me, what can make the biggest difference.”
Speaking up is a great place to start.
Athletes shouldn’t stop at campaigns against domestic violence and bullying. They can support more than military veterans, animal rights and cancer research. Some of society’s most-pressing issues surface almost daily via Twitter or cellphone videos.
Flare-ups should be snuffed as quickly as they appear.
Cubs pitcher Jon Lester tweeted Monday that athletes should “scrub your account of anything you wouldn’t want plastered next to your face on the front of a newspaper. Better yet, don’t say stupid things in the first place. Too many young guys getting burned.”
Nationals reliever Sean Doolittle said social media can be great for athletes, helping them share their personalities and connect with community. He said the content of posts is more important than the dates it was posted. But aged content that doesn’t mesh with your current thought process should be deleted.
“There’s a lot of opportunity for personal growth in baseball,” Doolittle tweeted. “It’s entirely possible that those old posts no longer reflect that person’s views. But actions will speak louder than words.”
Silence speaks loudly, too.
Athletes like Turner and Hader shouldn’t wait until ancient social media posts are unearthed before declaring which side they’re on. Instead being defined by old tweets, join the fight against real-time affronts all around us.
That means keeping the vileness off your steam, but also objecting when it comes into view through the news cycle or other people’s posts. That’s how athletes should use their platform, even though some fans prefer shut mouths (on certain issues). Doolittle wants to be heard on the matter.
“It’s a privilege to play in the major leagues and we have an obligation to leave the game better than we found it,” he tweeted. “There’s no place for racism, insensitive language or even causal homophobia.”
If you used to be that way but changed, say something when you see something.
Help enlighten someone else who’s still in the dark.
⦁ Deron Snyder writes his award-winning column for The Washington Times on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Follow him on Twitter @DeronSnyder.
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