There may not be a bigger advocate for LGBTQ rights among Major League Baseball players than Washington Nationals pitcher Sean Doolittle, and on Monday he decried the use of gay slurs by fellow players, even those made when they were younger.
Doolittle was referring to tweets that surfaced this month from Josh Hader of the Brewers, Sean Newcomb of the Braves and Doolittle’s Nationals teammate Trea Turner. All three had tweeted out racist and homophobic comments when they were teenagers about seven years ago and all have been ordered to undergo diversity training.
In an powerful series of tweets, Doolittle especially addressed homophobic comments and why they are so destructive:
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 indescretion, 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 bullshit. 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.
Doolittle and his wife, Eireann Dolan, have been great allies of the LGBTQ community, so while his comments today are not a surprise, they are nonetheless most welcome.