Think back to all of the stupid things that flowed out of your ignorant mouth as an irritating adolescent. Now imagine if you broadcasted those nonsensical views on social media and were held accountable for them in adulthood.
Your apology tour would last longer than Joe Biden’s gaffe-ridden campaign kick-off.
But that was one of the prevailing themes of NFL Draft weekend, where two top-rated prospects were forced to apologize for their teenage social media activity. Nick Bosa, whom the 49ers selected with the No. 2 overall pick, expressed contrition for his reckless decisions to call Colin Kaepernick a “clown” and Beyonce’s music “trash” as an 18 year old.
“I'm sorry if I hurt anybody,” he said, per NFL Media. “I definitely didn't intend for that to be the case. I think me being here (San Francisco) is even better for me as a person, because I don't think there's anywhere, any city, that you could really be in that would help you grow as much as this one will. I'm going to be surrounded with people of all different kinds, so I'm going to grow as a person. I'm going to be on my own. I'm going to grow up, I'm gonna learn a lot of new things. It's exciting.”
Perhaps Bosa, an ardent support of President Trump’s on social media, has changed his views. That would be applaudable. But it’s not necessary. It should be possible for Bosa to publicly disagree with Kaepernick’s protest and play for his former team.
But the prevailing takeaway from Bosa’s multiple mea culpas –– he also praised Kaepernick and said he “respects” what the QB has done –– is that conformity is nonnegotiable. Bosa was shamed for his high school musings, with several publications, including the New York Times, suggesting his tweets were racist. He did, after all, call “Black Panther” the worst Marvel movie ever made.
With social media cesspools like Facebook and Twitter entering their second decade of existence, we are now at a point where the digital histories of many young adults goes all the way back to their adolescent days. That means there are lots of tweets and “likes” to sift through, and if something seems untoward, then it is time to pounce.
That’s what happened to new Chiefs wideout Mecole Hardman, who was picked with the No. 56 overall selection. The pass-catcher tweeted several homophobic putdowns from 2012-15, using the word “gay” as an insult.
He was 14 years old.
“That’s a long time ago,” Hardman told the Kansas City Star's Brooke Pryor. “That’s probably immature of me at the time to tweet things like that. That’s my fault for doing that. I came a long way from that. That’s not who I am today.”
I suppose there’s nothing wrong with asking future NFL stars if they still support incendiary comments from their pasts. At the least, it allows them to disavow evils like homophobia and racism, which is a great message to send. The world would be a better place if bratty kids didn’t parrot hate-speech at middle school lunch tables.
But there’s something unsettling, and frankly creepy, about sifting through tweets from then-teenagers in an effort to dig up dirt and get them in trouble years later. Instagram sleuths dug through Bosa’s old “likes” to find he liked multiple posts from an apparent friend in 2014 that featured offensive hashtags with racial slurs, homophobic taunts and sexual innuendo.
The hashtags are absolute drivel –– a pu pu platter of smut from the mouth of a punk 16 year old, if you will. And yet, they found their way to USA Today: “Nick Bosa liked Instagram posts featuring racist and homophobic slurs,” the headline reads.
Teenagers say and do stupid things. Putting that kind of idiocy on social media makes it permanent, but it doesn’t make it any more indelible to Bosa or Hardman than an array of insults you probably hurled at your friends during recess.
In these cases, the players deserve the benefit of the doubt. Weaponizing schoolyard banter from 14 and 16 year olds is an unsavory practice.