Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Josh Hader apologized last week after racist and homophobic tweets he sent as a 17-year-old surfaced. He seemed genuinely contrite and his teammates supported him. All that is fine. What’s not is the standing ovation Hader received Saturday night in his first appearance on the mound since the controversy.
“With the Brewers leading the Dodgers 4-2 in the top of the seventh inning, Hader’s name was called over the stadium’s public address system,” wrote Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times. “The crowd roared. Some fans stood. Others followed. Then even more. Oh, boy. A standing ovation.”
A standing ovation? For apologizing after being caught tweeting “I hate gay people” and for racist tweets using the n-word? That is wrong.
Standing ovations are meant to honor someone for an amazing accomplishment, a long and storied career or overcoming great adversity. Not for having been found out as a homophobe and racist when you were a teenager. The people who stood should be ashamed of themselves. Hader was not fined, received no suspension and his livelihood was not threatened. He is not a victim and yet was treated as one.
Hader, 24, has said all the right things in apologizing to his team and city. He met with Billy Bean, a former player and now baseball executive who is openly gay and who was moved by Hader’s sincerity.
“I was really convinced after a couple hours together today — much longer than we expected — that his experience as an athlete and a professional in an integrated, diverse environment has created the person that he is today,” Bean told the Associated Press.
“I believe that, much like many of our millennial youth, he just probably forgot about whatever that moment was in his adolescence,” Bean added.
I have known of many young men who were homophobes growing up and yet changed once they matured and came to know gay people, some of who were their teammates. For many boys and young men, using gay slurs is a shield of masculinity to deflect anyone questioning their orientation. Many grow out of it and change. I’ll defer to Bean and give Hader the benefit of the doubt about his feelings toward LGBT people.
I can’t speak as a white man to Hader’s racist comments and whether he has done enough to atone for them. His teammates, including those African American, say the tweets do not reflect the person they have come to know and they have his back. That carries some weight.
One alderman, Alderman Khalif J. Rainey, was not satisfied and condemned the fans who rushed to embrace Hader.
”What occurred during Josh Hader’s first appearance since those tweets surfaced is most troubling,” Rainey said in a statement. “Thousands of fans gave the pitcher a standing ovation. This frankly is an embarrassment to the world. The boisterous manner of standing to show support for Hader is nothing less than a dismissive stance against problems of race affecting an entire community.”
I agree with Rainey and it’s worth noting that virtually all the fans shown on TV standing and applauding were white. Short of polling the fans who stood, we’ll never know why they gave Hader a hero’s welcome that was not deserved. Hader is a pitcher, but it was those Brewers fans who struck out.