Josh Hader didn’t need to say much about the Bucks’ boycott of their playoff game Wednesday night. But the fact that the Brewers’ All-Star closer said the right words and said them so loud and clear made him a must-hear voice reacting to the Kenosha, Wis., police shooting of Jacob Blake.
“It’s an enormous stand. It’s more than sports, and they showed it. It’s not about the game. It’s more than that,” Hader said of Milwaukee’s NBA team deciding not to play against Orlando, before his MLB team followed suit in posptoning its game against the Reds.
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“This is a time where we need to really not stay quiet and show and empower our voices. It’s something that we need to continue to talk about” Hader added. “It’s something that can’t just stay quiet and it’s nothing we can just put behind us. That’s something all of us, we have to continue to voice and bring light to this situation that we have because it’s a big thing.”
For those who remember the racist and homoohobic tweets written by a 17-year-old Hader that resurfaced during the 2018 All-Star Game, those words might be met with some skepticism. That’s not a surprise, given that his thoughtful apology two years ago wasn’t totally accepted, either.
Here’s what a 24-year-old Hader said then: “I was immature and obviously I said some things that were inexcusable. That doesn’t reflect on who I am as a person today.”
So what to make of Hader saying what he did as a 26-year-old? The conversations he’s calling for now might not conventiently fit into the current climate of unhealthy “cancel cutlure,” where Hader’s voice should never be deemed genuine. But when the whole puprose of boycotts and protests is to create change, Hader is inspiring proof that people can grow, learn and unlearn.
Hader is having an exceptional shortened season on the field. He leads the majors with his seven saves. He’s stuck out 13 batters in nine appearances, allowing no hits or earned runs, with a microscopic WHIP of 0.536 to match his 0.00 ERA.
Two years ago, Hader was a kid enjoying his second-year breakout introducing his heater, one of the game’s nastiest fastballs. In 2020, he’s a full-on young veteran face of the Brewers, right there with Christian Yelich.
Hader did say some hateful, foolish things in the past. But he’s recognized with his greater power on the mound, it comes with a greater responsibilty when stepping off it, too. If it goes that Hader can develop to become a better, more complete pitcher, it should scream that he can also become a much better person.
There’s no doubt that Hader has matured, even a lot more since he was apologizing two years ago. His voice carries more resonance than other athletes in Milwaukee and beyond who never had a racist thought because he’s a reminder that there is always hope for change.
It may not be easy for some to ever think of loving Hader, and that’s OK. But what he said deserves our attention, and it also should come with some of our respect.
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