Washington Nationals shortstop Trea Turner became the latest Major League Baseball player unable to outrun his online history Sunday when some tweets resurfaced that included racially insensitive language and homophobic slurs. The tweets were sent in 2011 and 2012 while he was playing collegiate baseball at North Carolina State.
“There are no excuses for my insensitive and offensive language on Twitter,” Turner said in a statement released by the Nationals. “I am sincerely sorry for those tweets and apologize wholeheartedly. I believe people who know me understand those regrettable actions do not reflect my values or who I am. But I understand the hurtful nature of such language and am sorry to have brought any negative light to the Nationals organization, myself or the game I love.”
The offensive messages surfaced after a Nationals-centric Twitter account earlier Sunday dug up racist and homophobic tweets sent by Atlanta Braves starter Sean Newcomb years ago. Another account retaliated with Turner’s tweets. Newcomb acknowledged sending the tweets attributed to his account and said he regretted them.
In the hours after Turner’s tweets emerged, they started disappearing, replaced with the message that they had been deleted.
“I have spoken with Trea regarding the tweets that surfaced earlier tonight,” Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo said in a separate statement. “He understands that his comments — regardless of when they were posted — are inexcusable and is taking full responsibility for his actions. The Nationals organization does not condone discrimination in any form, and his comments do not in any way reflect the values of our club. Trea has been a good teammate and model citizen in our clubhouse, and these comments are not indicative of how he has conducted himself while part of our team. He has apologized to me and to the organization for his comments.”
During the MLB All-Star Game at Nationals Park earlier this month, Milwaukee Brewers reliever Josh Hader’s old racist and homophobic tweets seized the spotlight, forcing the Maryland native to apologize publicly amid heated debate about the age at which overt racism starts qualifying as a knock against someone’s character. A few days after those tweets became public, Hader received a standing ovation from his home crowd at Miller Park.
Two of Turner’s resurfaced tweets were replies in which acquaintances were called homophobic slurs. In another, the tweet reads “unless ur gay” in a reply to a former North Carolina State teammate. A fourth tweet suggests that if a woman working at a drive-through were to ask who the (homophobic slur) in the back of a car was, it would be Turner. A fifth tweet reads, “Once u go black, u gonna need a wheelchair,” a line from the movie “White Chicks.”
Turner lends his time to MLB’s “Shred Hate” program, an anti-bullying initiative for which he is featured in an ad that runs on national networks and at Nationals Park. In a meeting with kids at a Shred Hate event this May, Turner said the following, according to MLB.com:
“Be yourself. You are who you are, and be proud of it. And rely on your friends and family. A lot of people that bully or whatever it may be, people that don’t know you, classmates or a lot of stuff is from people who don’t know who you are and what your values and morals are.”
Turner is in the midst of an up-and-down season in which he is hitting .265 with 24 stolen bases. He was named a Final Vote candidate for the All-Star Game but lost out to Brewers slugger Jesus Aguilar. Last week, Turner was named the Nationals’ recipient of the Heart and Hustle Award, as voted on by former players. Later that same day, Nationals Manager Dave Martinez benched Turner for not running out a bunt. Turner answered for the play and admitted he should have run to first.
Turner, 25, grew up in South Florida and played college baseball for the Wolfpack before becoming the first-round choice of the Padres in the 2014 MLB draft. The Nationals traded for him in the winter of 2014, and he burst onto the scene in 2016 with an explosive second half that earned him rookie of the year consideration.
For the struggling Nationals, who spent this weekend splitting a series with the last-place Marlins amid rumors that management is considering a sell-off before Tuesday’s trade deadline, the resurfaced tweets represent the latest in a barrage of negativity they cannot seem to shake.