People are notoriously bad for rushing to judgment. I include myself in that category, even though over the last couple of years I really have tried to be better at waiting for more information to come in before I draw conclusions.
Social media, unfortunately, has made jumping to conclusions that much easier — and popular — to do, which is exactly what happened last week during a Major League Baseball game between the Florida Marlins and the Colorado Rockies, which was played at Coors Field in Denver.
When Marlins outfielder Lewis Brinson, who is black, stepped up to bat in the 9th inning, a Rockies fan yelled out what some initially suggested was the “n-word.” Video of the fan allegedly using the racial slur went viral, and sports commentators and fans alike were quick to condemn the fan.
Some went even further, like Marlins podcaster/analyst and MLB contributor Craig Mish, who tweeted that the Rockies management “need to find this bastard and do bad things to him.”
USA Today Sports MLB columnist Bob Nightengale demanded the fan be put “in jail without the right to ever attend a sporting event, let alone anything else.”
The Colorado Rockies organization issued a statement that came down hard on the fan not long after the video surfaced on Twitter.
“The Colorado Rockies are disgusted at the racial slur by a fan directed at the Marlins’ Lewis Brinson during the ninth inning of today’s game,” the statement read. “Although the subject was not identified prior to the end of the game, the Rockies are still investigating this incident. The Rockies have zero tolerance for any form of racism or discrimination, and any fan using derogatory language of any kind will be ejected and banned from Coors Field.”
The problem with all the knee-jerk reactions is that the fan did not say the “n-word” at all. He was calling out for “Dinger,” which is the name of the Colorado Rockies’ mascot. The review the Rockies conducted into the matter (which included hearing from nearby fans) confirmed this is what the man in question was actually saying.
The careful Zaprudering of the video done by various Twitter sleuths also confirmed it, as the fan in question — who was sitting behind home plate — was clearly gesturing towards the mascot, who could be seen nearby. The fan was not looking at nor did he point to Lewis Brinson as he yelled out “Dinger” at the mascot.
Though the Rockies went on to win the game 13-8, they lost badly in the public relations department. While blanket statements condemning racism are not a bad thing, the better approach by the team would have been to state they were investigating allegations that a fan uttered the “n-word.” Instead, their statement declared it as though it was factual.
To make matters worse, the Rockies didn’t even bother apologizing once they concluded the fan yelled “Dinger.” Instead, they issued another statement correcting the record, while noting at the end that they “remain dedicated to providing an inclusive environment” for everyone.
Not found anywhere in the statement were the words “we’re sorry” or the words “we apologize” for falsely accusing a fan of using a racial slur.
There’s something to be said for waiting at least 24 hours before weighing in on the hot topics of the day. It would save a lot of headaches in the long run and eliminate the need to backtrack, delete tweets, etc.
Sadly, the Rockies didn’t do this, nor did fans and sports commentators alike. But while they get to go on with their lives, the fan at the center of the controversy now fears for his safety and for that of his family.
We as a society and as individuals have simply got to do better.
Media analyst Stacey Matthews has also written under the pseudonym Sister Toldjah and is a regular contributor to RedState and Legal Insurrection.