A year ago today, I couldn’t have cared less about politics. If you asked me who was in President Barack Obama’s cabinet, I may have been able to name one person. I didn’t know the name of the White House press secretary, nor did I watch any press conferences. Many of my friends would ask me how I could stay so uninterested in the topic. My response was always the same: I prefer to be naïve. It’s easier for me. My wife handles all the bills in our home. If there is ever a problem, she lets me know. I prefer it this way. I have complete trust in her after 23 years of being together and I know what and who she is. I always felt that same way about the United States Government. If there was a problem, I would be alerted to it, and would get more involved if I could. But again, I chose to be naïve.
Family, sports, and my job were my life. I didn’t have time for politics. I never watched CNN or FOX News or MSNBC unless there was some sort of giant story which required more attention. I didn’t read political articles or opinion pieces. I followed zero political pundits or figures on Twitter. I was all sports all the time. That all changed for me during the 2016 election cycle.
I was not—and still am not—a fan of President Donald Trump. It was funny for a while, but once it got serious, I got more involved and it wasn’t so humorous to me anymore. Election night was a surreal event for many, including me. I was still deep in my Indians Game 7 World Series depression six days earlier and Trump’s stunning win certainly didn’t help me. I tried to start off with the “he’s my President now, let give him a chance” mindset, but it quickly dissipated.
Here is the thing: Those who are still all in the bag for our President have every right to be. This is what “Makes America Great.” We can, and should, be able to live in harmony in the greatest country in the world despite our differences in political opinions. I mean, look at the successful marriage between famed Democratic strategist James Carville and his wife Mary Matalin who was a Republican political consultant. Sports are supposed to be our escape from the ills of the real world going on around us. The Indians run to Game 7 was an incredible distraction from a tough personal situation with which I continue to struggle. But as the Tribe season ended, the Browns in the tank as usual, and my lack of zest for the Cavaliers, I have thrown myself back into my Kansas Jayhawks hoops team as I always do. However, that has been joined by my new obsession: Being as knowledgeable as I possibly can about the current White House administration. It shouldn’t have come to this, but it has.
The Donald Trump Presidency has been so polarizing and such a hot button topic, that something that should be bringing us together, is doing the exact opposite. It has now spilled into our escape from it all. Some of the athletes of our favorite teams are now speaking out. Remember when Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the National Anthem? That has almost vanished from the sports landscape, but it was the tip of the iceberg. Just this past week, LeBron James, the greatest basketball player in the world, came out strong against President Trump’s controversial Immigration ban.
“Diversity is what makes this country so great,” said James in advance of his “Equality” campaign with Nike. We should all continue to speak up and fight for ideas that bring people together regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, religious beliefs or any other differences. I am not in favor of this policy or any policy that divides and excludes people. I stand with the many, many Americans who believe this does not represent what the United States is all about. We should continue to speak out about it.”
He was followed by other prominent athletes, including Warriors star and NBA MVP Stephen Curry, who responded to Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank’s assertion that Trump was “a real asset to the country” by saying “I agree with that description, if you remove the -et.’”
Athletes standing up for what they believe in isn’t exactly a new phenomenon. Muhammad Ali is revered the way he was because of his political activism. But in today’s social media, everything is recorded, landscape, you have to be extremely careful with what you say if you are a public figure. No matter if you think anyone is watching, someone always is. Just ask Curt Schilling who took a huge hit to his Baseball Hall of Fame chances with his controversial tweets. In particular one which posted a picture of a man wearing a shirt that read “Rope. Tree. Journalist,” where he said “so much awesome here.”
This brings me to Trevor Bauer.
The Tribe’s quirky, mercurial, starting pitcher has long prided his own individualism. I have long been a defender of his. He walks to the beat of his own drum, can be very stubborn and hard-headed, but a guy who once you put him on the mound, could get in that zone and pitch with an intensity that most pitchers can’t. I loved when he would come up with a big strikeout or a big double play ball and he would hit his glove with excitement. I thought he would thrive in the big stage of October.
The lacerated pinky from the drone to me was never a big deal. Bauer, by all accounts, is completely clean. He’s an analytic mind who loves the science of pitching and wants to feed himself with as much information as possible. This is not just some “dumb jock” we are talking about here. Trevor enjoys flying his drones. That’s his hobby. Some guys like to cook. Some guys like to go out and get hammered and chase women. If he would have cut his pinky with a knife while prepping vegetables, no one would have said a single word. But because it was his drone, many fans were up in arms. The timing was awful, but it was much ado about nothing. The guy still went out there and gave everything he had to his team.
If you follow Bauer on Twitter, you know that he likes to get into it with people. At times, it is amusing when he takes on a troll, but his “give zero Fs” attitude can come back to haunt him. Late Thursday night and into Friday morning, Andrew Zelman, CEO of Euclid Media Group and Tribe season ticket holder, was brought into a Twitter conversation with Bauer by another user that brought up the topic of whether or not Chief Wahoo is a racist characture. In his tweets, Bauer responded “I haven’t met a single Native American who thinks it’s racist. Shut up.” If that’s Bauer’s opinion, that is fine. I know many people who love the Chief and don’t want it to go away. I disagree, but again, Bauer is entitled to his opinion. Did he need to say “shut up?” Probably not. He could have and should have just left it there, but he didn’t. This is where Zelman, who is staunchly anti-Wahoo, jumped in.
Bauer defending President Trump, which is his right, by telling Zelman he thinks Trump is “doing fantastic.” When Zelman pressed him on how his teammates felt about it, he responded by saying “almost all of my teammates support Trump sooooo.”
When the Wahoo logo was brought up by another Twitter user, Bauer said “nothing about any of that is racist.” Zelman went back to Bauer saying “’Muslim Ban’ is racist, claiming the first African-American President wasn’t born in the USA is racist.” This is where Bauer needed to know who he is and what he is doing on an international platform that is seen by all. He could have just stopped responding here and let this die. Instead, he doubled down and made a gigantic mistake.
Bauer’s response to Zelman:
— Trevor Bauer (@BauerOutage) February 10, 2017
When Zelman came back with “So you don’t think Obama was born in the US? Bauer ended the conversation, blocked Zelman, and deleted some of the tweets.
Bauer has every right to feel how he wants to feel. But where he lost me, and many other Indians fans with whom I spoke, was when he brought back up the racist birther lie which was perpetuated for years and found to be completely false. You didn’t like President Obama Trevor? That’s totally fine. Millions of people all over the country didn’t agree with his politics and didn’t like his presidency, but to dredge back up the birther lie bordered on disgusting.
When asked for comment, Zelman told WFNY “I applaud Trevor or any athlete for speaking their minds, however I think he’s too combative In his interactions. He also should stand up for what he believes and not delete his tweets and block people.”
The fallout of Bauer’s Twitter run Thursday night and into Friday morning will be felt at some point. You know his teammates know about this. They can’t be thrilled. Reliever Dan Otero’s wife Tiffany responded to Bauer’s “almost all of my teammates support Trump” tweet by referencing the story of her husband’s 93-year-old grandmother who escaped Fidel Castro’s regime in Cuba.
— Tiffany Otero (@TKOW05) February 10, 2017
Maybe these players can block it out and it won’t be a big deal in the clubhouse. Some probably think “well, that’s just Trevor, being Trevor.” But what Bauer and his Twitter account have done time and time again has caused an unneeded distraction for a team that is trying to win their first World Series title since 1948. He has already done irreparable damage with a faction of Indians fans, many of whom have told him so in the mentions. Maybe Bauer thrives off of this negativity and has a breakout season on the mound and people forget about it. Regardless, Terry Francona has another fire he needs to put out. I will now have to wrestle with the moral decision if I am OK cheering for a man who perpetuates lies.