Those tweets, written in 2012 and 2013 and containing racial slurs and other offensive language, were published the day before the draft by Yahoo. They have since been deleted, with Allen explaining to ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith that he had been quoting rap lyrics and making a reference to an episode of “Modern Family.” Although Allen said the report initially left him “in a panic,” the Bills still traded up to take Allen, who said the tweets do not reflect who he is today. In a WGR radio interview Monday morning, Buffalo GM Brandon Beane said Bills officials had combed through the tweets with an embarrassed Allen.
“We basically got them all. We printed them out, every one of them, and we went through them with Josh,” Beane said. “Most of them, I think it’s been reported, accurately, were song lyrics that someone wrote that he either retweeted or gave a thumbs up to — I’m not on social media, so I may screw some of this up. We basically went through and said, ‘What did you do with this one?’ Several of them were kids being kids. They were stealing each other’s phones and quickly tweeting something out.
“The problem is he had, like, 9,000 tweets,” Beane said. “We went back through all the tweets he’s had since [he was] like 14 or 15. … He lost sight of what he should have been deleting out of there, and it all gets attached to him. He was very embarrassed, is probably the right word. He was emotional. He didn’t make excuses.”
Now, as Beane put it, Allen has to set the record straight with his new teammates. The team’s captain, veteran linebacker Lorenzo Alexander, plans to “get to know the kid” first.
“What I’m going to do is extend some grace and wait to get to know the kid and see how he develops,” Alexander told the Bills’ official radio program Friday. “And that’s how you’ve got to approach it.
“Now everyone might not have that same approach,” Alexander went on. “I would encourage every teammate in our locker room to do that, but he’s going to have to at some point, whether he does it in front of the whole team or one-off. Somebody’s going to ask him, ‘Why did you say that?’ or ‘Why were you quoting those words?’
“He’s going to have to have a good answer. I’ve listened to a couple of interviews, and I think it’s going to come from the heart and he’ll be fine. But he’s going to maybe have to work a little bit harder to get respect from certain people in the locker room, but I don’t think it’s an issue, because that’s who he was and not who he is.”
When he was officially introduced Friday in Buffalo, Allen said he was considering whether to speak to the team.
“It’s something, when I get to meet the guys, I get a sense of how they feel and what they say to me. I definitely would consider doing that,” he said. “It’s something that I wouldn’t be afraid or ashamed of doing. But I wouldn’t know until I got to meet everybody and got a feel for how they feel about it.”
Allen, who Beane said will start as the No. 3 quarterback behind AJ McCarron and Nathan Peterman, said his timetable for clearing the air is “as soon as possible.”
“I want them to know who I am. It happens; it was a mistake. I’ll put it on my shoulders and take it on the chin going back to when I was young and dumb,” he said. “[I] made a mistake and I just want them to know who I am, because once they get to know who I am, I think they’re going to like what they see and like the person that I am. They’re going to like what I’m going to do for this franchise, and that’s give them everything that I have to win football games.”
There promises to be a nuanced conversation, whenever it does occur. “I’m not going to be ignorant enough to assume that he understands the [n-word] as I understand it and a lot of people understand it,” Alexander said. “Because growing up in a culture, especially around a guy like Eminem, there are certain aspects of our culture that think it’s okay to say it, whether you’re white or black. I’ve actually witnessed some black kids allow their white friends to use the word and not think twice about it.
“He grew up — and I’m not making excuses for him, I’m just giving the reality of the matter — growing up in the middle of Fresno [as Allen did], not a lot of people [of color] were in his town that he grew up in,” Alexander said. “Small-time, I think it’s 1 percent blacks that live in that neighborhood. So you’re just not exposed to the same things.”
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