MLB Should Steer Clear of Punishment for Twitter Crimes

Jon Lester offered some advice to his fellow players Monday, suggesting they scrub their Twitter accounts of embarrassing or potentially inflammatory old content. Sean Newcomb and Trea Turner probably wish they had taken that advice, as both had old tweets surface this week. This all takes place only two weeks after Milwaukee Brewers reliever Josh Hader was exposed as a fairly disgusting person when his racist and homophobic teenage tweets came to light during the All-Star Game.

All of these incidents naturally lead to debate on the proper punishment for Turner and Newcomb, and, by extension, whether Hader (who only received MLB-mandated sensitivity training) was appropriately punished. Believe it or not, I actually side with the Milwaukee Brewers, who chose not sanction or punish Hader. Not because he (or Newcomb or Turner) does not deserve some form of consequence. He does. They do. But sports teams and leagues should not be in the business of judging what constitutes offensive speech.

I adamantly oppose the NFL’s new policy of punishing those who would kneel during the national anthem. Kneeling is also a form of speech, one that some interpret — wrongly, in my opinion — as a hateful and disrespectful act. I cannot envision any coherent policy that would allow punishment of Hader and his ilk that would not also punish those who kneel in protest during the anthem. Thus, if I want to support righteous protest, I have to live with the Haders of the world (pun intended).

I am well aware that the clowns who advocate for disciplining kneeling players are less principled and more hypocritical in their judgments. But when it comes to free speech, I will never yield my principles. I remain a staunch supporter of leagues meting out justice for criminal actions taken by players, like suspending Aroldis Chapman for domestic assault. And do not get me started on the standing ovation Hader received during his first home appearance after the break.

Personally, I hope discipline is meted out to Hader, Newcomb, and Turner in other ways. You can get creative with your own ideas on that front. I just hope MLB stays out of it.

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