(NEW YORK) — Young athletes have been stepping forward to apologize to the public over past social media posts that many have found offensive or even vicious, saying they regret the comments they posted when they were much younger.
Major League Baseball All-Star Josh Hader, 24, who admitted tweeting various racist, misogynist and homophobic tweets in 2011 and 2012, expressed remorse over the comments that had surfaced earlier this month. Hader was 17 and 18 years old at the time he wrote many of the offensive tweets.
“As a child I was immature and obviously I said some stuff that was inexcusable,” Hader told reporters in the locker room after the major league all-star game. “That doesn’t reflect on who I am as a person today.”
“There’s no excuse for what was said and, ya know, I’m deeply sorry for what I’ve said,” he said.
Major League Baseball responded, as well, describing the tweets as “highly offensive and hurtful language.”
“During last night’s game we became aware of Mr. Hader’s unacceptable social media comments in years past and have since been in communication with the Brewers regarding our shared concerns,” MLB said in a statement at the time. “After the game, Mr. Hader took the necessary step of expressing remorse for his highly offensive and hurtful language, which fails to represent the values of our game and our expectations for all those who are a part of it. The Office of the Commissioner will require sensitivity training for Mr. Hader and participation in MLB’s diversity and inclusion initiatives.”
Lauren Walsh, who runs a publicity company that helps athletes clean up their images, said she has assisted 40 NFL athletes with image control in the past several years.
She told ABC News she goes through every post the athletes have ever put up since they started their social media accounts.
“They really have to stop and think before they put anything out there because there are more people watching other things that they do,” Walsh said. “Again, you don’t just go to show up and play the game, people want to know more about you, connect with you and one of the biggest things is through social media.”
A lot of athletes have posted offensive comments when they were kids or teenagers, according Walsh, but nasty comments can lead to the loss of their careers.
Sean Newcomb and Trea Turner are the latest high-profile athlete whose offensive tweets from years past have backfired. Apparently homophobic and racially insensitive tweets that Turner posted from 2011 and 2012 reappeared recently on the internet. The 25-year-old, a shortstop for the Washington Nationals, apologized in a statement released by the team.
“I believe people who know me understand those regrettable actions do not reflect my values or who I am,” Turner said, according to the Associated Press. “But I understand the hurtful nature of such language and am sorry to have brought any negative light to the Nationals organization, myself or the game I love.”
The Atlanta Braves released a statement saying that it is aware of the past tweets from Newcomb and that the organization was working with the player.
“We are aware of the tweets that surfaced after today’s game and have spoken to Sean who is incredibly remorseful,” the statement read.
“Regardless of how long ago he posted them, he is aware of the insensitivity and is taking full responsibility,” the statement continued. “We find the tweet hurtful and incredibly disappointing and even though he was 18 or 19 years old when posted, it doesn’t make them any less tolerable. We will work together with Sean towards mending the wounds created in our community.”
But Walsh said it can take years to restore a player’s name after posting offensive comments because their “entire brand” is out there.
“It’s important that it’s up to you to make sure that you are … putting the right stuff out there,” Walsh said. “The biggest thing is definitely acknowledging that it was that and acknowledging that it happened.”
The next step is to start doing more positive things.
“Start to put things out there in a positive light or you start to go out in the community or give back to the next generation, but they have to do in a way that authentic to themselves,” she added.
Some colleges, like Creighton University, teach their student athletes about good decision-making on social media.
Creighton also brings in guest speakers to help the athletes learn about public relations matters such as interviews, social media and public speaking, according to university spokesman Rob Anderson.
Like Walsh, Anderson agreed that athletes can be held up as examples and fans are following their activities.
“Whether they want to accept it or not, athletes are role models to many within the community and sport they play,” Anderson told ABC News via email. “Having offensive words/actions attributed to them or their social media accounts generates unwanted publicity that casts the athlete into a negative light, and certainly can disrupt the harmony of a locker room or fan base (or worse).”
What athletes post on social media can have the same impact as what they say and last even longer.
“Posts on social media should be considered to have the same weight as the spoken word in a newspaper or television interview,” Anderson said, “but carry an even bigger risk to go viral in the days and years to come.”
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