Josh Hader returned to the mound for Milwaukee on Saturday night to a heroes welcome. A standing ovation usually given to a hometown hero returning from war or an old legend coming back to be the thanked for years of athletic and community service.
Only in 2018 does it not seem strange that a player would be welcomed back to the stadium by thousands of people in such a celebratory manner, after agreeing to sensitivity training for a barrage of racist tweets.
Hader came on in relief in the top of the seventh inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers. He jogged in from the bullpen between innings and received a small standing ovation. Most fans saved their reactions for Hader’s introduction by the PA announcer a couple of minutes later, when a majority of them rose to their feet, gradually erupting into a rising roar of support.
The fact that Hader was just 17 and a kid when he made those racist Tweets, has somehow gotten him out of the pickle he was in. No suspensions and no fines levied. His apology for being young and dumb was taken and his teammates, Black, white and Latino, stood by him and vouched for his character.
But on a night where Hader should have been humbled by the stupidity of his youth, the Brewers’ pitcher was treated as a hero and welcomed back to the Milwaukee community with open arms.
For what reason does Josh Hader deserve a standing ovation? A lot of people telling on themselves. https://t.co/TY1xkQLcSh
MLB has tried to rehabilitate Hader rather than ostracize him and MLB VP Billy Bean, who was one of the first MLB players to reveal he was gay, talked to Josh and spoke about the encounter.
Worth Watching. @ShaunKing Billy Bean was one of the first MLB players to come out as gay. He has talked to Josh MLB VP Billy Bean on his meeting with Brewers reliever Josh Hader https://t.co/r9pLrQuQM5 via @YouTube
The reaction of the Milwaukee crowd was shocking and hurtful to people of color who have been oppressed, marginalized, incarcerated, harassed, attacked and murdered in this country. In May, Milwaukee Bucks rookie Sterling Brown was tased by Milwaukee police and arrested for nothing. When the tape of the horrific incident was released, it sent shock waves through the sports community.
Oh how quickly people forget.
It was hard to find a Black face in Miller Park and was even harder to watch all of the white fans standing, clapping, smiling and supporting Haders return.
So explain this to me like I’m a 3 year old …. for what? https://t.co/jvolP9rRA5
Most white fans will say that it was a welcome back after an ordeal that saw his character dissected and torn to bits on social media. But people of color, and people with common decency, aren’t accepting that excuse as evidenced by the backlash on Twitter.
You cant support his past with applause. It was an ugly scene and hurtful to so many people, an example of pouring salt into a consistently festering wound. Nobody suggested that Hader be booed, yet it wouldn’t have been crazy to expect it.
But most would not have expected the 24-year-old pitcher to receive a standing O for dropping N-bombs in Tweets. He shouldn’t have expected, or deserved, the support, but the applauding fans of Milwaukee made it loud and clear where they stand in this increasingly divided country.