Like Prof. Reynolds, Seattle Mariners second-string catcher Steve Clevenger decided to express his unhappiness with the riots in Charlotte using his Twitter account, and also like the “Instapundit,” found himself in trouble as a result. Before posting the above tweet, Clevenger wrote this as his introduction:
Twitter didn’t suspend Clevenger’s account, but his employer, a baseball team located in a very liberal city and also a team that is embroiled in a desperate fight to make the play-offs, reacted initially with this, also on Twitter…
Clevenger apparently didn’t expect that his tweets would suddenly result in his being labelled as a racist blight on humanity by the many, many, people on social media who live for such incidents, and he quickly released a long and emotional apology:
First and foremost I would like to apologize to the Seattle Mariners, my teammates, my family and the fans of our great game for the distraction my tweets on my personal twitter page caused when they went public earlier today. I am sickened by the idea that anyone would think of me in racist terms. My tweets were reactionary to the events I saw on the news and were worded beyond poorly at best and I can see how and why someone could read into my tweets far more deeply than how I actually feel.
“I grew up on the streets of Baltimore, a city I love to this very day. I grew up in a very culturally diverse area of America and I am very proud to come from there. I am also proud that my inner circle of friends has never been defined by race but by the content of their character. Any former teammate or anyone who has met me can attest to this and I pride myself on not being a judgemental person. I just ask that the public not judge me because of an ill worded tweet.
“I do believe that supporting our First Amendment rights and supporting local law enforcement are not mutually exclusive. With everything going on in the world I really just want what is best for everyone regardless of who they are. I like many Americans are frustrated by a lot of things in the world and I would like to be a part of the dialogue moving forward to make this a better world for everyone.
” I once again apologize to anyone who was offended today and I just ask you not judge me off of a social media posting. Thank you and God bless everyone.”
It didn’t work, at least as far as the Mariners were concerned. The team has suspended him, without pay, for the rest of the season, using Major League Baseball’s social media policy, adopted in 2012. Players are prohibited from “[d]isplaying or transmitting Content that is derogatory or insensitive to individuals based on race, color, ancestry, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, age, disability, or religion, including, but not limited to, slurs, jokes, stereotypes or other inappropriate remarks.”
Broad and vague enough for you? All the better to chill free speech with!
1. The NBC Sports website, through writer Bill Baer, flatly pronounced Clevenger’s tweets “racist.” They were not racist. He denigrated no race or individual based on race. Any implication of racism is in the eye of the beholder, and Clevenger certainly gave those looking to take offense enough to go on, particularly the line about being “locked behind bars like animals,” which is a hot-button metaphor. Ah-HA! He compared black rioters to animals! No, in fact he didn’t. The metaphor is accurate: when humans are jailed, their plight is exactly like caged animals. Using the metaphor is not diplomatic nor wise, but it is not racist. As with Reynolds’ tweet, the fact that the rioters in Charlotte are black does not make an anti-riot tweet anti-black.
2. Is calling Black Lives Matter “pathetic” racist? No. “Pathetic” is milder than what I have called the group: dangerous, racist, irresponsible, ignorant. Black Lives Matter can be fairly and accurately criticized because of the group’s rhetoric and activities, and those have nothing to do with the race of its members or followers. Nor is it racist or a breach of civil discourse to call President Obama’s handling of racial divisions in the country pathetic. They have been pathetic, and again, far more damning adjectives are appropriate. Of course, that criticizing Obama is presumptive racism has been one of his supporters’ defensive postures since 2008.
We have been warned, and so has Clevenger.
3. I would welcome a description of how the second, more substantive tweet by Clevenger violates anything in MLB’s policy. It appears to be factual. Rioters have beaten people up, and they have targeted whites. A black man holding a gun was shot by a black police officer. Is the word “thug” a racial slur? I don’t use the term as a racial slur, and its proper definition isn’t racial. We don’t know that “thug” fits the deceased in character or action, but this is Twitter, and exactitude is difficult. Surely “ha ha shit cracks me up” doesn’t violate any MLB policy, correct?
4. “Keep kneeling for the anthem” is also not racist, but a pretty clear political statement. Clevenger’s message, in more refined terms, is
“Indeed, how ironic Black Lives Matter-inpsired African-American residents are doing harm to private property and engaging in violence over an unfortunate incident that appears to be unrelated to skin-pigment, and another example of a legitimate police response to a threat to an officer’s life! Egad, one must laugh to avoid weeping! This is the “systemic oppression of blacks in America” that the misguided players of that churlish sport football believe they are protesting by marring our National Anthem with their antics? It is positively Swiftian!”
5. Nevertheless, since such a tweet, in the terms he chose to use, could have and should have been anticipated to embarrass his team and create a needless distraction when the Mariners need to be focused on winning games so they can pass the Orioles, Astros, and Tigers for the final wild card slot, it was appropriate for the team to discipline Clevenger, who should have left the expression of anger with the rioters’ conduct more secure and articulate critics, like, say, Glenn Reynolds.
6.His punishment was excessive, however.
7. If the players union had any integrity, it would be fighting for Clevenger. I will be shocked if it has the courage to get between this lowly player and progressive political censorship, however.
8. Do you think that if Clevenger was not a second-string catcher who could be easily replaced, but instead one of the Mariners stars without whom their push for a chance at the World Series would be doomed, the team would have treated him this way? Would they suspend Nelson Cruz, Robbie Cano, or ace Felix Hernandez for a couple of tweets? I feel quite secure in saying “Never,” because if the answer isn’t never, it means the team views mollifying social justice warrior sensitivities as more important than winning championships.
This makes the episode a classic instance of “The King’s Pass” (Rationalization #11) in action.
9. Sportswriter Ken Rosenthal criticized Clevenger’s apology, saying,
“It’s a rambling apology. And, to be frank, it’s a weak apology as he blames readers for “[reading] into my tweets far more deeply than how I actually feel.” A simple, “I said a bad thing and I’m sorry” would have sufficed.”
Sportswriters are almost unanimously incompetent when getting into matters of policies and ethics. Clevenger was very clear: he explained his perspective, and why the riots upset him. He says he is not a racist, and properly maintains that people read otherwise into his statement, because that’s exactly what they did. He did not say a “bad thing.” Criticizing the riots, Obama’s objectively miserable race-relations record and Black Lives Matter is neither bad, nor racist, nor inappropriate unless you play for a major league baseball team that doesn’t want to get involved in those issues.
10. Colin Kaepernick grandstands repeatedly on the field, and explains his actions by accusing white America of intentionally and systemically oppressing blacks. The NFL cheers him, President Obama defends him, and he is hailed as a courageous truthteller and hero. Steve Clevenger expresses disgust over race riots in Charlotte, properly placing blame on accountable parties, and does so not in uniform but on Twitter. He loses his job and paycheck.