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Have Your Say: Do an Athlete’s Past Words Matter?

It started on July 17 with Josh Hader. The Milwaukee Brewers reliever was making his first All-Star Game appearance that quickly developed into a nightmare. Not only did Hader suffer a rocky outing at the game in Washington D.C., as he was pitching, old tweets of his resurfaced that contained discriminatory language.

Then there was Atlanta Braves pitcher Sean Newcomb, who also had old tweets exposed that contained similar language. The third player of the month was Washington Nationals infielder Trea Turner, whose account contained even more insensitive comments.

Each of the players involved apologized, saying that they made the tweets when they were younger and such language no longer represented who they were. And indeed, in each case the tweets were sent when the players were teenagers. While acknowledging that the tweets were inappropriate in any circumstances, the players assured that such things would not be heard from them again.

For many, that was enough. Hader even received a standing ovation at Miller Park in his first home relief appearance since the All-Star Game. Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo noted in a statement that while Turner’s tweets were “inexcusable,” Turner “has been a good teammate and model citizen in our clubhouse, and these comments are not indicative of how he has conducted himself while part of our team.”

In Major League Baseball, an incident like this can mean loss of sponsorship or endorsements or harm a player’s worth in free agency. For a high school age athlete, it could have an impact on recruiting or scholarship availability. But should it? To what extent does a player’s old behavior matter?

Players say that those tweets no longer represent who they are, but is that good enough? What steps has a player taken to evolve his or her view on a subject since posting those tweets? Or is taking their word for it good enough?

What’s your take?

Take 1: Players should suffer the consequences

Players at any level have to know that they have a responsibility on and off the field. That includes what they say and do. If something from their past emerges, then their team or their coach must take the action that they feel is appropriate. It is a lesson to other players: What they post on the internet has the potential to last forever. If they don’t want to say something for the whole world to hear, they shouldn’t say it at all.

Take 2: The past is the past

Who among us hasn’t once said something we regret? Athletes are no different; they’re allowed to make mistakes. Every sports organization has expectations for appropriate behavior, and clearly these tweets are inappropriate, but they were made years ago and players deserve a second chance. We know very little about these athletes as people, and we should give them the benefit of the doubt when they say that they’ve changed.

So should athletes be punished for old offensive tweets? Or should everyone just move on as long as they acknowledge what they did was wrong? Have your say in the comments below.

From GameChanger and Todd Kortemeier.

"Have Your Say" in some of our other opinion pieces here.

Baseball, Youth sports, MLB, College Recruitment, ethics in sports, amateur sports, college sports, have your say