This blog is authored by Joshua Geary, an incoming Senior at Central Michigan University and intern at Tanner Friedman for Summer 2018. Don Tanner served as Editor:
It happened again this week – this time to Atlanta Braves’ pitcher Sean Newcomb after what should have been the most exciting night in his blossoming career – and it is happening more and more.
It has become a tactic of internet trolls and crazed sports fans and also many established journalists to sift through the old tweets of athletes and other public figures in search of past bad behavior and, perhaps, a story. The more nefarious also look to create shame in the court of public opinion. Other recent targets include film director James Gunn and baseball player Josh Hader.
Newcomb’s tweets surfaced after he came within one out of a no-hitter against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The tweets contained homophobic and racist slurs, which, of course, have no place in our society. The tweets were from 2011 when Newcomb was in high school. Do those tweets reflect who Newcomb is now? Absolutely not, according to him and his teammates. He said as much in apologies both public and private in the clubhouse.
One would hope, in fact, that Newcomb and others grow and mature both with age and experience, just as we all should. Plus, he has been exposed to more diversity in his young baseball career than most Americans will be exposed to in their lifetimes. Still, at least for now, those words will haunt him.
Looking forward, they say time can heal all wounds and that actions speak louder than words. One can argue that anyone should be able to repent and be forgiven. At the same time, his tweets were no doubt hurtful to many at the time they were written and it is not hard to understand the outrage.
The bottom line in all of this and something our younger generations still do not always grasp is that social media is an incredibly powerful medium that carries your words and thoughts into perpetuity. My mother says not to post anything you wouldn’t want on the front page of the newspaper. She’s onto something there.
Take a minute to look through old posts and consider deleting anything offensive, recognizing someone already may have taken note and/or a screen shot. Not out of shame, but out of acknowledgement of the growth you’ve hopefully undergone. Even better: Think long and hard before you post anything. This can double as a quality self-reflection and a chance to avoid striking out amid a future PR crisis.