Zach Houchins says he is not a racist, nervous about future with the Nationals

Nationals draft choice Zach Houchins apologized for the offensive statements he made on his since-deleted Twitter and admitted he is nervous they will affect his future with the Nationals, he told the Post in a telephone interview this morning.

Houchins, 18, said felt remorse for making the statements he made on Twitter, which included racial epithets, objectionable references to women and homophobic slurs, and understood why they had provoked anger. But he also defended himself as someone who is not racist, who has lived with a black roommate for the past four years and said he commonly a racial epithet used to depict black people among black friends in casual, friendly conversation.

“Whether people think it or not, I’m not racist,” Houchins said. “I’m not a bigot. I’ve had a black guy live with me for four years. My closest friends literally are all black. I’m sorry it was out there for everybody to read. That’s just how me and my friends talk, including my black friends.”

Houchins, an infielder the Nationals chose in the 15th round out of Louisburg Junior College in North Carolina, believes the statements he made on Twitter will affect his chances to sign with the team.

“I feel like it’s that serious,” Houchins said. “I am nervous.”

Houchins called Nationals assistant general manager Roy Clark and apologized. “He just said, ‘Whatever is on your Twitter is completely unacceptable.’ I just said, ‘Yes sir.’ I understood where he was coming from.”

Houchins is committed to play at East Carolina University next season and said, even before his comments came to light, he faced a decision on whether he would attend school or sign with the Nationals. He has not heard from representatives from ECU, he said.

Over the phone, Houchins sounded like a scared kid.. He replied to many questions with “Yes, sir” or “No, sir.” He is 18 and suddenly very concerned about his future. “It’s going through a tough time right now,” Houchins said.

While Houchins took down the account, some of the tweets containing the offensive language were copied and posted on other blogs such as this one.

The Nationals released a statement late last night saying they are “aware of and investigating” Houchins’s posted comments. Phone calls made this afternoon to General Manager Mike Rizzo and Clark have yet to be returned. If and when they comment, this post will be updated.

Adam Kilgore covers national sports for the Washington Post. Previously he served as the Post's Washington Nationals beat writer from 2010 to 2014.
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