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Josh Hader and America’s willingness to absolve white athletes

Hader’s surfaced tweets were blatantly racist, homophobic and misogynistic. So why are some so quick to forgive and forget?

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89th MLB All-Star Game, presented by Mastercard Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Forgiveness is often a tool used to absolve the guilty of their wrongdoing to keep peace. Do you not see? They are sorry for their wrongdoing, apologetic for their lack of awareness, despondent only when recognized, sorrowful when they are caught. Josh Hader, relief pitcher for the Milwaukee Brewers, has opened this apologia tour again.

Old tweets surfaced after his performance in the MLB All-Star Game. Some are a spattering of what can make up a white teenager’s infancy: appropriating black rap songs, assumed jokes about white power, and lines referencing cocaine. Others are audacious rebukes of anyone without power, laced with adult impudence and scornful diatribe. Hader spews homophobia. Hader emits noticeable misogyny. Hader enjoys his slurs. This is not miscast American idiocy, but rather, a window into a rite of passage.

Hader apologized and said the statements don’t reflect his beliefs. Major League Baseball is requiring him to take sensitivity training. The Brewers acknowledged an incident occurred, but didn’t rebuke it. Instead they referred to Hader as a “good teammate.”

Yet cursory statements are not a bridge to exoneration. Racism cannot be used as a ritual befitting maturation. Because, notably, it is harnessed by the state and used to kill black people. It is unrelenting in its power when it attacks those without the shield of whiteness in front of their worth. History has shown us that actions without consequences are only for the privileged.

We cannot accept what transpired as the normalcy of childhood nor infantilize his statements. A mistake for Hader results in a highly publicized media tour where mostly white people, whose job it is to hold his feet to fire, are merely a checkbox on the path toward clemency. No one Hader needed to apologize in front of pushed hard enough for him to feel as if this wasn’t a boyish omission. They were quicker to sprint toward the black faces in the clubhouse, Lorenzo Cain and Jeremy Jeffress, forcing them to do what they couldn’t: give a worthwhile excuse for why another white athlete should be forgiven for what is unmistakably apparent.

Yet, is any of this revolutionary? White teens, teeming with online personas, often show how young heinous displays of racism can sprout. Stanford Swimmer Brock Turner committed sexual assault, blamed it on “party culture,” issued a hollow apology, and went on with his life. Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen yelled “nigga” online and other white supremacist gibberish, apologized, and went on with his life. Milwaukee Bucks guard Donte Divincenzo did the same, said he was hacked, Villanova University apologized, he deleted his account, and went on with his life. But most importantly, the same mercy and indulgences are kept past teenage years. Former Eagles receiver Riley Cooper went to a Kenny Chesney concert, said he would “jump that fence and fight every nigger here,” apologized, continued playing, and went on with his life.

There is no present where the metric for bad behavior by white athletes evolves. The leagues do not care enough, the fans and media brush it by. Those responsible have dictated that better is not needed for peace to be maintained. These abhorrent wrongdoings exist in a continuum of the internet age, where recklessness is often rewarded, and if excavated later, denounced for what should have been acknowledged before. How does anyone from the current generation, with a lifetime of wrongdoing, correct those things if they were never confronted, forcefully, wholly, as incorrect?

Clemency for blatant racism, homophobia and misogyny cannot be resolved with training when it is ingrained into our very systems. Young people whose transgressions are playfully dismissed and the athletes they grow to be must have their deeds punished. They need to be suspended by the people overseeing them when wicked acts surface. And, if necessary, they should be banished from the athletic institutions propping up their exploits to set the precedent that nothing like this can be accepted. Until then, this is a continuous social loop.

Now, Hader, fully remorseful that he was caught by internet watchdogs, apologized. The baseball community has accepted it. And I’m sure his playbook is already set so that his life can continue without anything that will appear as more than a blip of an All-Star season. It’s vile that the American athletic system can take odious circumstances and regard them with normalcy. What has been laid out is a copy-paste script for some to be forgiven, but forgiveness is always offered too quickly to the undeserving and most powerful.