“It’s not that I’m not afraid, because it gives me a lot of anxiety,” Doolittle said. “It does.”
Doolittle finally published the thread on Twitter Monday evening.
“It’s been a tough couple of weeks for baseball on twitter,” it began. “It sucks to see racist and homophobic language coming from inside our league — a league I’m so proud to be a part of that I’ve worked really hard to make a more accepting and inclusive place for all our fans to enjoy.”
Doolittle texted Turner immediately after the message hit the Internet to widespread praise. He wanted his teammate to know he didn’t intend to pile on. He didn’t want Turner to take it personally. That was his main concern. Turner told him he appreciated the tweets, and Doolittle breathed a sigh of relief.
Turner addressed his teammates the next day. Doolittle called it emotional. He thought Turner showed genuine remorse by not hiding behind his age at the time of the tweets and took ownership, both in front of his team and the media.
“I think it resonated with people and they appreciated it,” Doolittle said.
It wasn’t the first time the 31-year-old Doolittle directly offered his opinion on a matter few high-profile professional athletes would touch. Last May, Doolittle and Dolan wrote an op-ed about veterans’ issues. Later in the year, Doolittle, who attended the University of Virginia, spoke out against what happened in Charlottesville. There have been other instances. But this was different. This time, the issue involved both peers in his industry and a teammate. A misstep and Doolittle could’ve received backlash from his own clubhouse.
“It was very measured,” Doolittle said. “It was very careful. It’s incredibly nerve-racking. I didn’t think it was going to get the attention that it got, but anytime you put your opinion out there, it makes you a little vulnerable.”
Doolittle was compelled to express his opinion because homophobia hits home. Dolan’s mother came out to her as a lesbian when Dolan was in high school. The connection has spurred Doolittle and Dolan’s extensive work with LGBT community, going back to Doolittle’s time with the Oakland Athletics. They were instrumental in the Athletics’ annual pride night and have continued their work in Washington since Doolittle joined the Nationals last July. That history — along with seeing Chicago Cubs pitcher Jon Lester initiate what Doolittle believed was a constructive dialogue on Twitter — prompted Doolittle to voice his thoughts.
“You can’t just say stuff about everything. You can’t address everything,” Doolittle said. “Your message will kind of get drowned out in the noise. So you’re going to have to be careful about things that you want to talk about or lend your voice to.
“But I hope the involvement of the stuff we’ve done, the involvement in the community, lends gravity to the words we’re saying and people don’t think it’s in any way opportunistic. At least that’s the way we wanted to do it. Get involved. Do stuff in the community. Get out there. Do that stuff first. And then kind of build up that goodwill so that people don’t think, ‘Who are these carpetbaggers who just came into this place and started throwing their voices around?’ So we were very aware of that.”
Just a couple weeks before Turner’s tweets resurfaced, Doolittle wore a black “Love Wins” T-shirt under a sports coat on the red carpet during the All-Star Game parade outside Nationals Park. Doolittle bought the T-shirt at a Bloomingdale’s in SoHo in New York City the previous weekend while the Nationals were in town facing the Mets. He had never walked on a red carpet before. He wanted to utilize the platform to express himself.
“At first, I wasn’t sure if people were going to take offense to that message or anything,” Doolittle said. “But then I said, ‘Who’s really going to get mad about something that says ‘Love Wins’ on it?’ That’s a pretty universal thing. If you get mad at something that says ‘Love Wins’, I don’t know what to tell you.”
That night, Josh Hader, a reliever for the Milwaukee Brewers, came off the field at the All-Star Game to find that his old racist and homophobic tweets were all over the Internet. Doolittle’s message was timely, but he held off from addressing the topic publicly until Turner’s tweets were revealed just hours after the same thing happened to Atlanta Braves pitcher Sean Newcomb days later. It was a pattern Doolittle found disturbing and damaging to a league he’s attempted to make more inclusive with his platform. So he went out on a limb and spoke his mind again.
“I think his comments were outstanding,” Nationals Manager Dave Martinez said. “And I think his support for Trea means a lot. It meant a lot to Trea. It meant a lot to the teammates. They rallied around Trea because of the comments that Sean made. And it’s hard. Trea understood he messed up, he screwed up and to know his team’s going to be behind him and help him, was a great feeling.”
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