After finishing just one strike shy of completing a no-hitter, Braves pitcher Sean Newcomb suffered the wrath of the internet when his old tweets were unearthed.

While digging up old tweets is far from new (look at Damian Lillard and Mitchell Trubisky), 2018 unearthed tweets have exposed pro athletes as being racist and/or homophobic in their teenage years, including Josh Allen, who was taken in the first round of the NFL Draft and Josh Hader, whose tweets were exposed during a rough outing in the All-Star Game.

This crude language is of course awful and not something that should be condoned – and these players shouldn’t necessarily get a pass – but it is also to take things into context. These tweets were sent by high school kids, who were frankly stupid and were clearly unaware of the weight of the words they were using. The U.S. political landscape was also very different in 2011 and while saying “n—–” has been frowned upon for years (even when quoting rap lyrics like some of these tweets do), homophobic slurs were not as taboo to say then.

Of course, the resolution to all of this is to raise your kids to understand the gravity of what they say and to be accountable on social media, but this is also the first generation of professional athletes to be connected to social media since high school, and one throwaway tweet written in high school should not formulate what we as society think of them now. In an act of self-preservation, if you’re a prospective professional athlete and you aren’t 100 percent sure that you have no skeleton in your closet (or Twitter archives), delete your social media account and start anew, before it’s too late. That blue badge can always come back, but your damaged self-image can’t always be repaired. While this can be perceived as cowardly, it also take away ammunition from the internet trolls and allows your more control of what you write. The pros simply outweigh the cons.

As a professional athlete, you will have plenty of other opportunities to prove you are homophobic. Just ask Daniel Murphy, John Rocker, Wendell Smallwood and many other athletes over the years.

The tides of American culture are changing and hopefully this leads to a more self-aware culture, but until then, let’s put the pitchforks away, take a step back and realize that there is a difference between saying terrible things when you are 17 and still saying it at 24.

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