New York Yankees pitcher Nestor Cortes Jr. stepped over the cultural line in high school, and the tweets that displayed an early Twitter offensiveness came back to haunt him.
On Sunday, someone on Twitter retweeted a barrage of old tweets where Cortes posted the word n***a more than a dozen times. The now 27-year-old apologized for the tweets he posted almost a decade ago.
Cortes admitted that he was “pissed” with himself and “shocked” when the tweets resurfaced after starting against the White Sox in the Windy City.
“I Deleted My Twitter”
“Those aren’t the messages I want to send out,” Cortes said to The New York Post on Monday before the Yankees faced the Orioles at Camden Yards. “I deleted my Twitter [account] to clean stuff up. Hopefully I can make a better impact in the world for the people that look up to me to give a better example.”
It raises the age-old question of who is allowed to use racially-charged words co-opted as terms of endearment in street culture.
Cortes is a Cuban-American that grew up in the city of Hialeah in the Miami-Dade County, Florida area. The city also boasts one of the highest percentages of Cuban and Cuban -merican residents of any city in the United States.
The Gray Zone
With most of his tweets coming from a street colloquial, conversational stance instead of racially charged intent, Cortes now lives in the gray area where street culture finds its nouveau riche adherents.
The same has happened to Latino rap artists like Fat Joe, whose Bronx upbringing is not factored in now that he services the bigger pop culture audience he currently serves.
In sports, boxing has seen the brunt of confusion when tensions boil over between Latino boxers and trainers who find themselves at odds with Black opponents.
In October 2021, Teofimo Lopez was the unified lightweight champion and was feeling himself. He had a confrontation with then WBC lightweight champion Devin Haney and during the heated exchange, Lopez comfortably used the N-word profusely at Haney.
With the media in full force and camera phones surrounding the viral moment, the full gaze of boxing fans led to alarm at Lopez’s audacity, even though he is a Honduran-American born in Brooklyn, New York.
“I Grew Up In Black Neighborhoods”
Back in 2017, Angel Garcia, trainer to his son and two-division world champion, Danny Garcia, erupted at then opponent Keith Thurman during a press conference and steered into controversy.
Garcia went on a rant towards Thurman that was full of N-word drops, and he felt an extreme backlash from the media and SHOWTIME networks showing the fight.
“I grew up in black neighborhoods…I went to Black schools, Black neighborhoods, so how the hell am I racist? Come on, man. [Thurman] got on the mic and said, ‘I’m going to knock you the f*ck out, Danny Garcia. I’m going to knock you the f*ck out.’ That’s what he said. And I said, ‘you ain’t gonna knock nobody the f*ck out you b*tch ass blank.’ That’s what I said.
“I’m from the ’hood, brother. A motherf***er from the hood ain’t racist!”
Street Culture vs. American Culture
As the street culture from impoverished communities creeps further into the collective consciousness of American culture, the debate roils on who can and cannot use racially charged words.
Cortes is another example of the polarizing intersection of race, sports, and culture.