Brewers All-Star Josh Hader Was Exposed as a Teen Racist. What Happens Now?
What the saga of John Rocker teaches us about Major League Baseball’s latest racism row.
The real hero in this Josh Hader racist-ass tweets story isn’t the internet snoop who dug up the pure horseshit he wrote when he was seventeen years old and posted it while he was giving up a three-run blast to Mariners shortstop Jean Segura in Tuesday’s MLB All-Star Game (that’s not to say they didn’t do excellent posting, of course—dredging up old racist crap to hold someone accountable is good as hell). No, the hero here is pretty much everyone who has any stake in Josh Hader’s success. Because how the fuck, in 2018, did his girlfriend (who works in PR), his agent, his family, the management of the Brewers, the management of every minor league squad he ever played for, his friends, his lawyer, his teammates, his goddamn dentist, for Christ’s sake, not sit down, grab this idiot by the shoulders, and tell him to scrub everything he posted on the internet before he turned twenty?
I find it pretty hard to believe that Josh Hader is just so decent seeming, a kind and warm presence to everyone he has ever met, constantly giving money to charities and progressive causes, that it never occurred to anyone that he might have done some messed-up posting in his life. No, the only rational conclusion here is that all of these people knew that Hader could be prone to doing something like this when he wore the clothes of a younger man, and they decided, for the good of Josh and for the good of society at large, that letting him get caught and publicly shamed during the climax of his professional life was the only moral option; the only way to allow the universe to force Hader to atone for his youthful racism, homophobia and misogyny.
There is simply no feasible way this oversight could be an oversight at all: this was a deliberate action undertaken by dozens of people designed to drag the hideousness of Hader’s racism into the harsh light of day, hold it on display for all to see, and communicate a lesson to the youth of America who hope to someday play professional sports: it will be found, you will be punished. Clean up your act, check your goddamn privilege and quit being a vile shithead or society will scorn you.
After the game, Hader donned a deeply ugly tan collared shirt and gave a stupendously awkward press conference. His long hair in a messy bun, face unflatteringly lit under the glare of camera lights, he muttered his way through his answers, apologizing, saying that this didn’t represent his pure feelings in any way, volunteering to serve any punishment Baseball thought appropriate (they opted for “sensitivity training”) and offering half-answers—you know, the sort you give when you really, really don’t wanna keep talking—to questions about his teammates (“it’s something they shouldn’t be involved in”) and his family (“like I said before, I was young, immature and stupid”).
He also managed to say he was “sure it was some rap lyrics being tweeted,” which is just the goofiest nonsense imaginable. First off, the sentence construction deflects from his own responsibility by turning him into an objective observer of his teenage self, which is always a bad play when you’re trying to take responsibility. Also it’s just out of control 1991 to blame your racism on rap. What rap lyric was the seventeen-year-old you’re trying to distance yourself from quoting when you wrote “white power” next to an emoji of a closed fist, exactly? Or “KKK?”
What should the punishment for racism be? Embarrassment and “sensitivity training” is probably on the light side of punishment here.
The answer is complete ostracization—exile from the public sphere. But there’s a problem: we’re living in a time where the public sphere is so massive that anyone cast out of polite society will, with the help of a single internet search, be able to find themselves a sphere of their own.
In the ‘90s, John Rocker, a reliever and a tremendous dickhead who played for the Atlanta Braves, gave a vile interview where he slandered New York City, immigrants, single mothers, people with AIDS and gay people in the space of one sentence. He was sent to the space where Hader is being sent right now: sensitivity training, apologies, suspension, fine. It didn’t fix shit. Rocker claimed that he would spend a quarter of an hour at the sessions, and only washed out of baseball because his velocity, his only notable quality as a baseball pitcher, left him behind not long after the interview.
Eventually Rocker resurfaced in a world that truly does not give a flying fuck whether you are a racist or not: conservative commentating. He wrote a column for WND.com, appeared on FOX News and wrote a shitty book, all the while peddling the same hateful anti-immigrant garbage that the MLB forced him to be contrite about to Hank Aaron not half a decade earlier. He also appeared on Survivor, where he placed 16th.
Right now, Hader is getting what he deserves. After he told his family of the emergent filth, they were given blank jerseys so they could get out of the stadium without being roasted for the shame of being related to a dude whose mind’s septic system was getting unloaded in the public square. One hopes this makes an impression on Hader—that he’s a decent enough person that his public shaming will teach him about the consequences of saying racist drivel.
But we’re living in a time when that just, like, doesn’t matter. Because Hader could be a good enough dude that this teaches him something, or he could be a genuine maniac who is behind closed doors railing about PC-culture and vowing revenge on a world that gave him shit over “nothing.” The fucked-up thing about this country is that either could form a viable career path.