Twitter Ethics, “Punching Down” Ethics: The Trevor Bauer Affair

The Pitcher And his Non-Fan

So it’s come to this. It isn’t enough to use past juvenile tweets as a means to shame and subordinate professional athletes. Now the sportswriting establishment is lobbying for teams to exercise control over their social media conduct and style even when no slurs or even alleged slurs are involved.

Trevor Bauer is an established major league starting pitcher for the Cleveland Indians, finally emerging a s star after many years of dreaded “potential.” He’s not a kid–he’s 27—but in his public dealings and image be appears to be about 14. There’s nothing wrong with that at all. He plays a kid’s game, and young sportswriters cheer players now who make faces, preen, trash talk and engage in extreme on-the-field celebrations. Dignity on the field is considered passe, a problem for baseball. Be out there! Show personality!

Ah, but some sportswriters have decided that they are the arbiters of what kind of eccentricities are acceptable, even off the field. For some reason, sports media like NBC Sports and ESPN have decided to pollute sports reporting with the unqualified declarations of woke and aspiring social justice warriors.  I know not why, unless it is part of the full immersion progressive indoctrination strategy that the news media has joined.

At NBC Sports, two baseball writers, Bill Baer and Craig Calcaterra, are such devoted leftist propagandists that any regular reader can predict their screeds before reading them. If the baseball page isn’t just lifting news unaccredited from other sites (MLB Trade Rumors, diligent, competent, and blissfully politics free, is the main victim), Baer or Calcaterra are making arguments that Rep. Oacsio-Cortez would endorse in a heartbeat. For example, they believe that it is travesty of justice that team owners aren’t willing to pay millionaire players what the players feel they “deserve” rather than what is prudent for the owners’ budgets and what makes sense based on reasonable assessments of a players’ value.

Recently Bill Baer decided to demand the Indians and MLB “do something” about Trevor Bauer. The full presumptuousness and arrogance of his argument cannot be appreciated without quoting him extensively, which I will do now, with periodic commentary. The post is headlined, “Indians, MLB need to take Trevor Bauer’s harassing tweets seriously.”

He begins by an unethical device called “poisoning the well,” using an irrelevant episode or accusation to pre-bias readers:

Indians pitcher Trevor Bauer is what we extremely online people call “extremely online” [which means] to inculcate oneself to Internet culture, including humor. Bauer exemplified this last year when he went to arbitration with the Indians. He wanted to file for $6.9 million, but …the right-hander was warned that the figure was too high and could result in him losing his case. He then wanted to file for $6,420,969.69. Why 69? As any teenager can tell you, it references a sexual position and that’s funny stuff on the Internet. Why 420? Well, that references April 20, or 4/20, a day of celebration for marijuana enthusiasts…Bauer started “The 69 Days of Giving” in which he would donate $420.69 daily to a different charity. On the 69th and final day, he pledged to donate $69,420.69 to a secret charity. So, that gives you a bit of a picture of Bauer’s personality and sense of humor. .

Oh, who cares? I love “offensive jokes” that have to be explained so people can find them offensive. The encomium that “if you detect a dog whistle, you’re the dog” seems apt here. Who, except geeks like Baer, look for coded drug and sex messages in salary demands? But Baer was just getting warmed up…

That was mostly fine until two days ago when Bauer responded to a critic on Twitter. The critic, a baseball fan named Nikki, wrote of Bauer, “My new least favorite person in all sports,” tagging Bauer’s Twitter account (@BauerOutage). Bauer responded, “Welcome to the fan club” and included a kiss emoji. If that was the start and end of it, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. But Bauer persisted, repeatedly going after her. …Bauer also replied to Nikki’s tweets publically – direct replies can only be seen by those who follow both parties – which allowed all 134,000 of his followers to get in on the drama and chime in. Bauer was repeatedly inviting his fans to harass Nikki on his behalf, and they did. Nikki ended up temporarily deleting her account. Responding to a Bauer fan who criticized her for deleting, Nikki wrote, “Sorry I didn’t like being told to kill my self for 4 days straight. You’re right. I’m so soft.”

…Why is Bauer’s behavior wrong? Simply put, it’s because there’s a power imbalance and Bauer exploited that to harass a woman, a baseball fan. Even after the online fracas with Bauer, Nikki has only 600 followers. Only a handful of people would go to bat for Nikki, but even a tiny percentage of Bauer’s 134,000 followers going after Nikki constitutes a gross amount of abuse. Let’s say that only 0.5 percent got involved. That’s still 670 people — more than Nikki’s entire follower count. It’s tough to get an actual count of just how many people were in Nikki’s mentions as a result of her interactions with Bauer, but a cursory search shows it’s quite a lot.

In short, Bauer wielded his power – his fame and online influence – improperly and unfairly towards Nikki. He bullied her. It is also notable that Bauer chose to obsess this way over a female critic. He has never gone to this length to challenge a male critic.

Now that Bauer has gone Full Social Justice #MeToo Virtue-Signaling Avenger, let’s unpack this.

First, this isn’t “harassment” by any legal or ethical definition. The woman, who for all Bauer knew could have been  a dog, or President Trump, gratuitously attacked him, calling him in an early tweet, ” a professional athlete that tweets like a 16 year girl on her period.”  Should Bauer have taken the bait and engaged in a nasty exchange? It was unwise. It was imprudent. It was tit-for-tat. However, the playing field was Twitter, and the fan voluntarily engaged him on it. Baer’s argument makes no sense: he is arguing that a non-celebrity can attack a celebrity online and in social media, but if the celebrity strikes back in kind, it’s “punching down.”

Balderdash. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/21/2018: Getting The Tree Lights On In One Day Victory Lap Edition, Featuring Sports, Movies, Jerks And “Bambi”

Happy Holidays!

Seven hours, one serious needle wound, and 1300 lights later, victory! I’ll finish the decorations when I get back home, IF I get back home…

1. Itinerary…I’m heading to New Jersey via train to hook up with the brilliant Mike Messer, what we call “the talent,” in an encore rendition of the musical legal ethics seminar, “Ethics Rock Extreme,” lyrics by yours truly, musical stylings by Mike, on the guitar. Then it’s back to D.C. by air on Saturday, if I’m lucky. If I’m not lucky, I’ll be taking the New Jersey bar exam in the Spring…

I have no idea how or whether I’ll be able to keep Ethics Alarms on track once I board the train this afternoon. I’m not going to launch a second Open Forum in leas than a week, so please keep working on the current one here, now at 130 entries and counting. I will be reviewing those on the road, and I’m sure there will be some Comments of the Day to post, eventually.

2. In case I am trapped in New Jersey…Let me alert everyone that Peter Jackson’s apparently terrific (based on the reviews) WWI documentary “They Shall Not Grow Old” will be playing in theaters on December 27, and after that, who knows? The American public’s ignorance about that war, perhaps the greatest human catastrophe in modern history, is a failure of education, perspective and culture. If you have kids, take them. Here is the trailer:

3. Speaking of cultural literacy and movies, TCM is offering a limited engagement in theaters for “The Wizard of Oz,” on January 27, 29, and 30.

Is there another film that so many people purport to know and love so well without actually having seen it as it was intended to be seen? When I finally saw the movie in a theater—no breaks or commercials, big screen—I was shocked at how different and, obviously, better, the experience was. It’s an artistic masterpiece and sui generis: we will never see its like again, nor talents like Judy, Ray and Burt, among others. Continue reading

First They Came For The Baseball Players: The ‘Hader Gotcha’ Catches On…

Sonny Gray, who should be punished today for a Twitter joke he made six years ago….

I’ve written about this new blight on the American scene three times since a creep trying to embarrass Milwaukee pitcher Josh Hader tracked down some offensive tweets he made in high school, causing Major league Baseball to sentence him to re-education. Not content with the MLB over-reaction, pompous, social justice warrior thought-control purveyors in the sports media like NBC Sports’ Craig Calcaterra and Bill Baer declaimed that he must be made an example of, shunned, cooked, and eaten, or something.  Hader’s pathetic grovel to the mob was so amusing that two more baseball players were quickly subjected to The Hader Gotcha–that will be the Ethics Alarms label to this poison—with similar results (and more obnoxious virtue-signaling by Calcaterra and Baer). Atlanta Braves starter Sean Newcomb had his Twitter history searched by some resentful Dodger fan while he was  pitching a near no-hitter  against LA, with the result that  Newcomb had to deny that he was a racist and a bigot. Next, some Washington Nationals hater did the same to shortstop Trea Turner, posting old Turner tweets from his college days at North Carolina State University. [The third time I wrote about the phenomenon was in a non-baseball context, when “Guardians of the Galaxy” director James Gunn was fired by Disney because a conservative hit man did a twitter dig and found some of his old tweets.]

Isn’t this great? You can be a sad and lonely schlub with  a trivial, insignificant, powerless, witless existence, and yet bring a successful, rich, popular baseball player to his metaphorical knees!  Just  find and publicize some ill-considered,  impulsive  tweets sent when fame and fortune weren’t even twinkles in the future star’s eye, and the nascent athlete was trying to make do with the under-developed brain of a typical male under the age of 25. Why, it’s even better than dropping rocks on cars as they go under an overpass, or releasing computer viruses! What a rush! Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/20/18: Out Of Bounds

Good Morning!

1. Here is the level of logic and ethical reasoning the public is subjected to by the media: Here is NBC Sports blogger Bill Baer on why it is misguided for the Milwaukee Brewers not to punish relief pitcher Josh Hader—whose career crisis I discussed here–for tweets he authored when he was in high school seven years ago:

The “he was 17” defense rings hollow. At 17 years old, one is able to join the military, get a full driver’s license (in many states), apply for student loans, and get married (in some states). Additionally, one is not far off from being able to legally buy cigarettes and guns. Given all of these other responsibilities we give to teenagers, asking them not to use racial and homophobic slurs is not unreasonable. Punishing them when they do so is also not unreasonable.

A study from several years ago found that black boys are viewed as older and less innocent than white boys. A similar study from last year found that black girls are viewed as less innocent than white girls. Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, and Cameron Tillman, among many others, never got the benefit of the doubt that Hader and countless other white kids have gotten and continue to get in our society. When we start giving the same benefit of the doubt to members of marginalized groups, then we can break out the “but he was only 17” defense for Hader.

How many repeatedly debunked false rationalizations and equivalencies are there in that blather? It’s not even worth rebutting: if you can’t see what’s wrong with it…if your reaction is, “Hey! Good point! Why is it OK for a cop to shoot a teenager for charging him after resisting arrest, but not OK to suspend a ball player for dumb social media posts he made in high school?”…I am wasting my time. And NBC pays Baer as an expert commentator. It might as well pay Zippy the Pinhead.

2. Is this offensive, or funny? Or both? Increasingly, we are reaching the point where anything that is funny is offensive, thus nothing can be funny. The Montgomery Biscuits, the Tampa Bay Rays’ Double-A affiliates, will be hosting a “Millennial Night” this weekend, being promoted with announcements like this one: “Want free things without doing much work? Well you’re in luck! Riverwalk Stadium will be millennial friendly on Saturday, July 21, with a participation ribbon giveaway just for showing up, napping and selfie stations, along with lots of avocados.”

Apparently there has been a substantial negative reaction from millennials, and the indefinable group that is routinely offended on behalf of just about anyone.

Nonetheless, I agree with the critics. I think the promotion goes beyond good-natured to insulting. It’s like announcing a Seniors Night by guaranteeing free Depends and promising extra-loud public address announcements that will be repeated for the dementia-afflicted who forget what they just heard. [Pointer: Bad Bob] Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/14/17: Too Much Liberty, Too Much Precision, Too Much Success, Too Much Posturing, And More

Good Morning!

1 Today I’m going to have to waste several hours responding to a vexatious and retaliatory lawsuit by an Ethics Alarms commenter. It’s remarkable I’ve been able to avoid this annoyance for so long, I suppose, but annoyance it is. I’ve been threatened with a few lawsuits, and served once before, in that case by a lawyer who was angry that I described his ridiculous law suit against a Hollywood film as ridiculous.

The misuse of the legal system to harass and extort is an expensive price we all pay for living in a democracy that agrees with Clarence Darrow that in order to have enough liberty it is necessary to have too much. Our prices are higher, our medical expenses are inflated, and other rights, like freedom of expression, are constrained by the nation’s commitment to let common people, and often common people with unethical motives, have easy access to the courts to address their grievances, real, imagined or manufactured. I support this without reservation, , but it is no fun being the victim of it.

2.  It is a common refrain in resistance circles and the social media echo chambers that President Trump “isn’t doing anything.” That is hardly the case, and like a lot of anti-Trump rhetoric, is intentional disinformation. Since the anti-Trump collective spends all of its time trying to devise ways to somehow un-elect him—the 25th Amendment nonsense in back in the news—-while focusing on his tweets, his boorishness,  his feuds, and what he hasn’t done, they ignore the fact that Trump’s administration has been remarkably productive in addressing the issues that helped elect him. The U.S. is no longer wink-winking about illegal immigration. It is undoing the Obama policy of issuing restrictive energy regulations to signal concern over climate change that won’t have any measurable effect on climate change. The disastrous “Dear Colleague” please start assuming all male college students accused of sexual assault are guilty letter is gone and unlamented. We are not being bullied by little North Korea any more. Regulations of all kinds are being cut back. He is remaking the judiciary, pointing it away from judicial activism. Consumer confidence is high, and the stock market is soaring.

All of this has taken place in less than a year. The wisdom of many of these measures can be debated, and progressives hate all of it, but that’s irrelevant. There is much to criticize President Trump for, and much to deplore about his long and short-term effects on his office and the culture. Not accomplishing his stated goals, however, is not one of his flaws.

3. The Washington Nationals, who have morphed into the post 1986 Boston Red Sox as the team that always finds a way to miss winning the World Series, were eliminated in the National League Division Series with the assistance of many flukey plays that went against them. Particularly galling was when an 8th inning Nats rally was cut short in the fifth and decisive game against the Chicago Cubs because Washington’s second-string catcher was picked off first base with the potential game-tying run in scoring position. Jose Lobaton—now a name that will live in D.C. infamy–looked safe on TV and was called safe by the umpire when a snap throw to first by Cubs catcher Wilson Contreras caught him taking too big a lead. A slow motion review of the instant replay, however, showed that Lobaton’s  foot came off the first base bag for a nanosecond while Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo still had the tag on him. The naked eye would never have caught it. Still, if a runner is tagged while not on a base, he’s out.

On the NBC Sports website, blogger Bill Baer argued that this was a misuse of instant replay, writing in part,

“I]t feels unfair to use replay review in this manner. Both teams’ success or failure hinged on Lobaton’s foot coming off of the bag for one-sixteenth of a second. It’s a technicality, like coming back to your car at 10:01 only to see the meter maid walking away and a ticket on your windshield.

The spirit of replay review wasn’t about microscopic technicalities, it was about getting certain calls right: home run/not a home run, fair/foul, safe/out (in other areas, obviously, given this argument). Major League Baseball should greatly consider amending the rules to make it so that a player simply returning to the bag is grounds to be called safe, ending the pedantry of these types of reviews.”

This reminds me to add “It’s just a technicality” to the rationalizations I haven’t gotten around to adding to the Ethics Alarms list. (This makes four.)  It may feel unfair to enforce the rules, just like it feels unfair when you flunk the written test to get a license by one question, or get a ticket when you were driving just a little over the speed limit, or win the popular vote and still don’t get to be President because of the Electoral College. The “spirit of replay review” was to get calls right based on what really happens, not based on what the umpire saw or what he thought happened. Not “certain calls”: there’s no virtue in a wrong call that was just a little wrong. The difference between safe and out isn’t small or technical in baseball. It is everything. Lobaton was out, and it isn’t anything but a benefit to the integrity of baseball that he was finally called out. Continue reading

Unethical Headline Of The Month: NBC Sports

I suppose the Ethics Alarms headline could also be Ethics Dunce: Bill Baer, for the NBC baseball writer responsible for the irresponsible, misleading, ignorant and mighty close to libelous story under the headline, which is…

Sherwin Williams is trying to back out of a charitable contribution at Angel Stadium

No, it isn’t. Not even close.

Here, in part, is what Baer writes. Raise your hand when you realize that he is full of beans:

The paint company Sherwin Williams created a neat promotion at Angel Stadium. There’s a giant paint can with the brand name in left-center field. If a player hits a ball into the can, Sherwin Williams will donate $1 million to the Angels Baseball Foundation, the Angels’ charity for kids.

Angels outfielder Justin Upton appeared to trigger that charitable contribution when he hit a solo home run to left-center field against Indians closer Cody Allen on Tuesday night. The ball bounced in front of the can and then went in on a hop.

ESPN reports that Sherwin Williams is using a technicality to try and get out of the obligation. Because Upton’s home run didn’t land in the can on the fly, Sherwin Williams is saying they’re not obliged to make the $1 million donation. In 2014, Frazee Paint and the Angels agreed to the paint can promotion and indeed the press release says, “…if an Angels player hits a home run that lands in the can on the fly, the company will make a $1 million donation to benefit the Foundation’s efforts to improve the lives of children in the community.” Frazee Paint is now owned by Sherwin Williams.

The first lie in the story that helps generate the false headline is, “If a player hits a ball into the can, Sherwin Williams will donate $1 million.” False. As the story itself confirms, the paint company agreed to donate the sum if a player hits a ball into the can on the fly, meaning without hitting the ground first. Also, presumably, this has to occur during a game, and not batting practice. I would assume that a player can’t stand ten feet away between innings and try to hit a ball into the can either. Or use a tennis racket to do it.

The second lie is that Sherwin Williams is using a technicality to try to get out of the obligation. Actually, the second lie is that ESPN reports that Sherwin Williams is using a technicality, because ESPN’s story, unlike NBC, is accurate. It doesn’t use the term “technicality” anywhere. Its headline is also accurate: ” Justin Upton’s homer doesn’t count for $1 million paint can promotion.”

That’s correct. The homer didn’t, and doesn’t. The ESPN story does say that the crowd applauded and cheered when the ball landed in the can, thinking the terms of the promotion had been met. What a surprise: a crowd of fans doesn’t know what’s going on. Sports reporters, however, are paid not only to know what’s going on, but to accurately explain it to the great unwashed.

After three lies, Baer (all right, if the headline is the first lie, then it’s four lies), writes, “indeed the press release says, “…if an Angels player hits a home run that lands in the can on the fly, the company will make a $1 million donation to benefit the Foundation’s efforts to improve the lives of children in the community.” Continue reading