Steve Clevenger is the backup catcher for the Mariners, and currently injured. Don’t feel bad if you haven’t heard of him previously, as that’s a pretty remote roster spot as far as baseball is concerned. You likely heard of Clevenger on Thursday night or Friday morning, though, as he tweeted criticism of Black Lives Matter and the athletes kneeling during the playing of the national anthem.
The first screenshotted tweet is idiocy, as SB Nation’s Mariners’ blog Lookout Landing wrote on Thursday. The second, though, where Clevenger decides to refer to Black Lives Matters supporters and President Barack Obama as "animals" who should be behind bars, pushes this from "questionable word choice and potentially racist" to "oh wow yeah that’s racist, Steve, Jesus."
The Mariners issued a statement following Clevenger’s tweets, pointing out that they don’t support his views nor do his views reflect those of the organization.
Statement from Jerry Dipoto, Executive Vice President & General Manager of Baseball Operations on Tweets from catcher Steve Clevenger. pic.twitter.com/1xWk6dy5ap— Mariners (@Mariners) September 23, 2016
The wording matters there, given the Mariners have a pre-season social media lesson for their players explaining to them that their online views do represent the Mariners. So, Clevenger getting called out by his team isn’t nothing, but it’s also not everything: he could very well lose his job for this, at least with Seattle.
And before anyone on Facebook you went to high school with forgets, recall that the First Amendment protects your speech from the government: the Mariners can do whatever they want with Clevenger, and it’s up to the MLB Player’s Union to defend him if they deem he’s been mistreated.
Clevenger issued an apology for his statements, but it’s the kind of non-apology that you’re all used to seeing at this point. Clevenger wanted to say he was sorry if he offended anyone — not for his hurtful, harmful words, but if they just so happened to offend. He’s just out here living his truth, y’all, and if that’s too much for you, well, he’s sorry for that.
" I am sickened by the idea that anyone would think of me in racist terms," wrote Clevenger, who isn’t aware that the way to keep people from thinking of you in racist terms is to avoid thinking and then tweeting racist thoughts out there for everyone to consume. You’re in charge of that particular, Steve, so if anyone thinks you’re racist — and they do! — that’s kind of on you.
So, what’s next for Clevenger? Given how conservative much of MLB tends to lean, Clevenger might not lose his job. He also could, though, to send a message about the proper way to represent the Mariners’ organization on social media. Given he’s not a very good baseball player, his loss wouldn’t mean much to the M’s, so that takes some of the power out of releasing him. Still, though, it would be a start in repairing a bridge that Clevenger set on fire Thursday.
[Update 12:16 p.m.] While Clevenger's fate is still maybe unknown, for now, he has been suspended for the rest of the season without pay. When he's eligible to come off of the 60-day disabled list, the Mariners might take the next step and release him, but for now, this is it.