By Joel Silverberg / @JoelSilverberg
Sports journalism’s newest trend for 2018 has been a bad one. Digging up an athlete’s old social media posts from long in the past. The purpose is to generate controversy. The reality is it’s taking away from the moment and causing a nuisance rather than a revolt.
Former Villanova basketball player Done DiVincenzo and major leaguers Josh Hader, Trea Turner and Sean Newcomb have all been blindsided with questions regarding controversial posts made on Twitter that are racial, homophobic or insensitive in one way or another.
All of the aforementioned athletes are now in their 20s. All of their old tweets are dated to when they were in high school.
What’s more frustrating is the tweets suddenly resurface in the midst of a career high. DiVincenzo was first asked about his insensitive post following a record-breaking performance in the National Championship game. Hader was enjoying his first career All-Star game. Newcomb was informed following the best start of his young career after being a strike away from a no-hitter. Turner is a young talent for the Nationals who finished second in the NL Rookie of the Year Award ballot in 2016.
If reporters are going to simply wait in the weeds sitting on old tweets until an athlete emerges into prominence they’ll only be damaging the already rocky relationship between players and the media. That doesn’t show that media members care about insensitivity. It only makes reporters looks as if they want the story and nothing else.
The tweets from all of these players are wrong and it’s important to instruct current high schoolers to be careful about their social media accounts, but to claim an athlete’s six-year-old Twitter history from before he was old enough to vote is an indication of his current identity is absurd.
In the example of Newcomb, his Atlanta Braves teammate Ender Inciarte called Newcomb “one of the best teammates” he’s had and described him as a “role model.” Hader’s teammates in Milwaukee claimed those tweets didn’t reflect the player they knew in their clubhouse.
These players have clearly grown from these old tweets. If their teammates don’t see this reflected in their current behavior then they’ve either already learned their lesson or they figured out the impact of their social media accounts before becoming pros.
If organizations, whether it be the franchise or the league, are going to continue requiring sensitivity training or some form of probation for players with insensitive social media posts from high school, then the league should show it truly cares about the issue by mandating training for everyone. Not just athletes who have their tweets resurface following a career-best performance.
As for the journalists, bringing up ancient history on Twitter like it’s a real story is a poor attempt at creating a persona of being pioneers for change. You want to see racal and homophobic insensitivity on social media go away? Go teach the high schoolers that instead of waiting six years.