Last Sunday afternoon, I got an alert on my phone from MLB.com. Atlanta Braves pitcher Sean Newcomb had a no-hitter going through eight innings.
As a Mets fan, I’ve never rooted for the Braves. But as a baseball fan, I love no-hitters, so I turned in to see if Newcomb could get those final three outs.
He retired the first two hitters, then give up a clean single to the Dodgers’ Chris Taylor.
It turned out not be the worst part of his day.
As you’ve probably already read or heard, a number of tweets with racist and homophobic slurs were soon thereafter unearthed from Newcomb’s Twitter account. Apparently, the tweets from Newcomb, 25, had been posted when he was 18. He did apologize, of course, as most people caught having done something like this do.
Later that day came word that Washington Nationals shortstop Trea Turner also had bigoted tweets from his younger days social media history. Those two followed Milwaukee pitcher Josh Hader, whose vile tweets had been discovered at the All-Star game last month.
The knee-jerk reactions to revelations like this might be: “Wow, I’m glad they didn’t have Twitter when I was that age,” or maybe “Give him a break. He was just a dumb kid.”
Both of those reactions completely miss the point.
Yes, teens and early 20-somethings — along with some other people more than old enough to know better — are apt to tweet or say stupid or hateful things at any moment.
I’ve seen some columns and quotes the past week arguing that these players are victims. After all, they were just young, foolish kids.
Nonsense. We should not feel sorry for them because their rantings came back to bite them. They wrote them, and probably thought they were funny or even true at the time.
We should be concerned about their targets — the people subjected to hateful or racist or homophobic postings.
I get it. The level of their offenses is not as bad as some others.
But they are no more victims than the powerful men who have been reported as harassers and abusers by women who finally feel they can say something without risking everything.
They are no more the victims than the priests and other church people who have been identified as having abused children.
Victims are the people who are attacked — physically or verbally.
Victims are not people who make those attacks. To try to excuse or defend any of their actions is unconscionable.
I received an email criticizing The Daily Item for publishing the Diocese of Harrisburg’s release of the names of 71 accused the sexual abuse of children on the front page. The reader accused us of Catholic-bashing.
As regular readers know, I am a lifelong practicing Catholic. I know first-hand that there are many good people involved with the Church.
That doesn’t make the Church the victim. Bishop Ronald Gainer made that clear, both at his press conference and in his column we published Friday.
The people who have been forced to live the rest of their lives with the impact of being abused are the victims — a designation, by the way, that nobody wants to have.
They are the people who require our support and our defense.