Nick Foles wrote a heartfelt letter in the Players’ Tribune to thank “Eagles fans everywhere” when the Super Bowl-winning quarterback’s new contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars became official on Wednesday. Antonio Brown paid for “Thank You Pittsburgh” billboards around the city he called home for the past nine years on the same day the wide receiver was introduced by the Oakland Raiders. Odell Beckham Jr. acknowledged his “REAL NYG fans” in an Instagram post on Thursday morning, two days after his shocking trade to the Cleveland Browns was announced.
It’s become customary for outgoing athletes to thank their former organizations and fan bases with a social media post — or by more elaborate means. So it’s noticeable when they don’t. Take Bryce Harper, for instance, whose social media silence about Washington since signing with the Philadelphia Phillies on Feb. 28 hasn’t been lost on some local media members and Nationals fans.
“I understand he didn’t get the contract that he wanted from the Nationals,” NBC Sports Washington’s Michael Jenkins said this week. “Totally fair, good for him for getting the most money he could get. And you know what? I don’t like that it’s Philly, I’m not a Philly fan, but I get it. However, you could show a little bit of appreciation and at least thank the fans. A simple thank you, it would take 10 seconds on Twitter to say ‘Thank you, D.C.’ He hasn’t done any of that. Seven years, fans supported him, bought his jerseys, bought tickets, he hasn’t said a thing.”
Jenkins isn’t the only one who has commented on Harper amid the backdrop of NFL free agency farewells.
“Nick Foles says goodbye to Eagles fans,” Washington Times columnist Thom Loverro tweeted Wednesday. “Maybe Bryce Harper will finally hold that BryceFest to say goodbye that Scott Boras promised Nationals fans stiffed by Bryce at Nats FanFest in 2015.”
“It appears, to my untrained eye, that a star player was able to thank fans and the organization after he left that organization,” 106.7 The Fan host Danny Rouhier tweeted Thursday in reference to Beckham’s Instagram post and an allusion to Harper’s silence. “It is possible. Who knew?”
“Zach Brown way classier on his way out of D.C. than Bryce Harper,” NBC Sports Washington Redskins reporter J.P. Finlay tweeted after Brown, the former linebacker, thanked fans for showing him “mad love” in a 20-word Instagram post following his release on Thursday.
To be fair, Harper did sort of already say goodbye with an Instagram post six months ago. After playing in his final home game with the Nationals — and turning down Washington’s 10-year, $300 million contract offer — Harper posted a nine-photo grid on Instagram with a simple message: “To the fans and the city of DC, thank you!”
The most Harper has said about the team that drafted him and the city that embraced him since was in a recent interview with ESPN the Magazine’s Tim Keown, in which he dismissed the Nationals’ offer.
“I grew up in front of those fans and that city, and I enjoyed every minute of it,” Harper said. “But I didn’t know if I fit into their plans. About $100 million of that contract was deferred 'til I was 65 years old. It’s like, ‘What does that do for me? What does that do for my family?’ "
Meanwhile, Harper has already referred to his new Phamily (blech) and described Philadelphia as the “greatest city in the world” (sure, man) on Instagram. It might be time to hit that unfollow button.
There are no doubt a large number of Nationals fans who haven’t noticed Harper’s lack of a formal goodbye and plenty more who either don’t care or don’t want one. (Wasn’t it enough that he vowed to bring a title back to D.C. in his introductory news conference with the Phillies?)
NBC Sports Washington Capitals analyst Alan May, who was traded five times during a hockey career that preceded this era of social media sayonaras, has no problem with Harper bucking the trend.
“It’s almost to the level of being cheesy that everyone does all these things,” May told the Sports Junkies on 106.7 The Fan earlier this month. “It doesn’t matter. He’s moved on. He signed with another team. I’m sure that he’ll always say great things about playing in D.C. and the fans and the ballpark and the great atmosphere that they had. But I don’t think everyone has to do this nowadays.”
While some have suggested that it’s too late for Harper to redeem himself and (another) goodbye at this point would be insincere, I told a friend a couple of weeks ago that I could see Harper posting something on Instagram ahead of the Phillies’ first visit to National Park on April 2. After all, Harper’s free agency lasted four months. What’s another few weeks?
Perhaps Harper is in his feelings, processing the thought of playing against Juan Soto 19 times a year for the next 13 seasons while struggling to find the right words to say goodbye to a city he praised throughout his seven years here. It took Harper’s could’ve-been teammate Patrick Corbin time to thank the organization that developed him.
Corbin, who made his major league debut with the Arizona Diamondbacks two days before Harper played his first game for the Nationals, posted a photo of himself at Nationals Park on Instagram the day he was introduced in D.C. It wasn’t until two months later, shortly before he headed to West Palm Beach, Fla., for spring training, that Corbin posted a 241-word farewell to his Diamondbacks family.
In other words, there’s still time for Harper to author a cliched goodbye, which may or may not double as a pomade ad. And Bryce, if you’re considering taking out a page in a newspaper, I know a guy. Farewells, like democracy, die in darkness.
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