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  • Max Kepler and the Cost of Silence


    Nick Nelson

    Our community is broken. Our country is broken. To not speak up is to be complicit. To shy away from this conversation is to contribute to the widespread apathy and complacency that has brought us to this tragic state.

    That's why Max Kepler's actions on social media over the weekend are so bitterly disappointing to me.

    Image courtesy of Ben Ludeman-USA TODAY Sports

    Our city, and many cities around the nation, have been thrown into turmoil. Long-brewing tensions are at a boiling point in the aftermath of George Floyd's murder, less than five miles away from Target Field.

    I was heartened to see Twins manager Rocco Baldelli speak up immediately, tweeting last Wednesday, "George Floyd should be breathing right now. We have a lot of progress to make. A lot. Remember his name. Remember what happened."

    https://twitter.com/roccodbaldelli/status/1265519568321228800

    Over the weekend, Twins center fielder Byron Buxton shared a heartfelt message on Instagram, accompanied by the image of a memorial for George Floyd. "It’s unbearable to even think about what’s happening in our city and throughout the country, but things have to CHANGE," Buxton pleaded. "African Americans have been slaughtered left and right for nothing more than the color of our skin. That is reality and it has been ignored far too long."

    buxtoninstagram.png

    I can't help but wonder how Buxton feels about seeing the comparatively tone-deaf remarks from Kepler, who has long played alongside him in the Twins outfield.

    To recap the events that went down: On Thursday, Kepler shared a picture on Instagram of himself wearing a "Blue Lives Matter" face mask he'd received from some company. Evidently, he got a rush of negative feedback because he quickly deleted the post, adding a follow-up: "wasn't aware of what the mask supported. still not into politics," along with a peace sign emoji.

    keplerinstagrammask.jpg

    keplerinstagramfollow.jpeg

    Now, let me preface what I'm going to say here by being as clear as possible: I don't think Kepler had any malicious intent. Based on every interaction I've had with him, and every story I've heard from others, he's a genuinely good-hearted person. I can certainly believe he was unaware of what the mask represented, given the cultural disconnect from growing up in Germany. And I believe he means what he wrote in a later message: "Racism has no place in our world and I do not in any way support the actions that we all witnessed that led to George Floyd’s passing.”

    But Max being a good person and actively choosing to stay silent is exactly the problem. What really grinds on me is that first follow-up message. "Not into politics [peace sign]." This is the attitude that has gotten our society to this point: comfortable white people choosing to excuse themselves from the conversation, because it doesn't affect them personally. While I know he didn't intend it as such, Kepler's comments come as a slap in the face to a grieving and enraged community where he's supposed to be a leader.

    To paraphrase CNN's Chris Cuomo, what's happening right now isn't a political issue. It's a humanity issue. People like Buxton don't have the luxury of categorizing systemic injustice as "politics" and that's why Kepler's remarks, shared while the city of Minneapolis literally burned, landed with a total lack of empathy.

    If Kepler wants to stand on the sidelines, defining himself simply as a ballplayer while rejecting any personal stake in the situation, that is his prerogative. But it's precisely what perpetuates a lack of change that is destroying us.

    We live in a world now where the lines are blurred; Kepler and the Twins aren't playing baseball due to a global health crisis that has sadly been framed as "political" by some, but is much more fundamental to our civilization and society in general. What we now face here in Minnesota, and across America, is much the same.

    I don't know if Kepler will receive this message. But I know, based on the demographics, that our site's audience is predominately white, and relatively affluent. We are the voices needed most in this fight. I say this not to be judgmental, or to point fingers – I myself recognize a serious need to be more outspoken and active in my support and advocacy. Writing this article, despite the backlash it will inevitably receive, is a small step toward that end.

    Max: if you want the peace sign you included in your message to be anything more than a meaningless platitude, copping out with a "not into politics" comment is not an option. This isn't politics. This is life. This is the city YOU represent. Take a cue from your manager, who is again showing himself to be a true leader.

    We need to confront these issues seriously, not obscure them behind images of a dog fetching a tennis ball. These aren't happy or carefree times. Acting like they are will only make your fanbase lose touch with you. This is coming from one fan who already feels like he has.

    We're leaving the comments open on this post. We welcome a respectful and productive conversation around this vital topic. But we also need to look out for our overburdened moderators. If people can't keep things respectful, comments will be shut down.

    Thanks for hearing me out y'all.

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    Pathetic.  Compelling people to have group think is the worst possible reaction to this (unless it is to use Chris Cuomo as the source of any idea).

     

    The police force protect this nation.  The Police Chief of the City of Minneapois is an African American.  Is he an evil racist?  Several of the commanders of departments are African American?  Are they racists?

     

    The true fact is, the racial element in these matters are way overblown.  Police often overreact to the situation and they should be held accountable. The violence and crime in these areas are beyond your comprehension.  It is mostly black on black, minority on minority crimes.  This overreaction will hurt these areas and they may never recover just like Detroit, LA, Newark and other cities that have had such levels of riot.

     

    Stick to baseball.  That is my recommendation for this site.  

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    Pathetic.  Compelling people to have group think is the worst possible reaction to this (unless it is to use Chris Cuomo as the source of any idea).

     

    The police force protect this nation.  The Police Chief of the City of Minneapois is an African American.  Is he an evil racist?  Several of the commanders of departments are African American?  Are they racists?

    I believe they are all very understanding of what's happening. They continue to say so. You been watching the news? Tonight the MPLS chief of police Medaria Arradondo expressly stated that all four officers present at George Floyd's death were culpable. That's been a recurring chant at protests.

     

    Your comment was pretty rude but I understand it's a touchy subject. I ask: rather than dwelling on the source, do you disagree with Mr. Cuomo's statement? That this is a humanity issue rather than a political one? Do you see signs at these protests talking about Democrats and Republicans? 

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    I believe they are all very understanding of what's happening. They continue to say so. You been watching the news? Tonight the MPLS chief of police Medaria Arradondo expressly stated that all four officers present at George Floyd's death were culpable. That's been a recurring chant at protests.

     

    Your comment was pretty rude but I understand it's a touchy subject. I ask: rather than dwelling on the source, do you disagree with Mr. Cuomo's statement? That this is a humanity issue rather than a political one? Do you see signs at these protests talking about Democrats and Republicans?

     

     

    Nick

    Why Twins Daily allows your political rants is beyond me. Your statement “ our country is broken “ is typical leftist agenda. I am sure the vast majority of Twins fans would much rather leave politics to a different venue. Your calling out Kepler on Twins Daily because he doesn’t meet your standards is pathetic. Twins Daily is not the place to have a political discussion. I for one think using Twins Daily for your posturing is immature and wrong placed.

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    I recall a TD article earlier this year that mentioned Fernando Romero's visa problems about which I commented only to be admonished by a mod that TD doesn't do politics.  Clearly, TD does when it suits a few.  Move this to a politics forum.

     

    I'm glad Kepler doesn't do public politics.  Social media are putrid places to spend one's time (unless it's limited to baseball, right?)  That's one of the incredible number of choices we have in this country.  That doesn't mean Max is unfeeling about the loss of life.  Let's not confuse politics or political expressions with one's capacity for empathy.

     

    Let's also not confuse matters further by ignoring the aftermath.  People have a right to protest.  No one has a right to damage another's property or take another life in the aftermath of a murder.  One may be outraged, but remain respectful.  And exercising one's right to be quiet should offend no one.

     

    A society gets the government it deserves.  I don't live in Minnesota, but make it there once a year to watch a Twins' series, last year with Cleveland.  If there was something wrong with the police, mayor, DA, AG or governor last September it wasn't apparent.  But, state and local government's response to Floyd's murder has been awful.  (And Minnesota's politicians' response to the Covid-19 has been equally pathetic---where's the TD outrage to the fact that ~75% of Minnesota's Covid-19 related deaths have been in its nursing homes?  Negligence?  Manslaughter?) Fix government by all means, exercise your 1st Amendment rights, but don't use a baseball forum to cast a shadow on a athlete for exercising their right to refrain from making public politic comments.

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    What a diaper load of feel-good political correctness.  Always enjoyed this blog, not only because it was about the Minnesota Twins, but it was an escape from the political world. This ruins it. Don't they realize that about half the country disagrees, no matter what your political view are? There are plenty of other social media options if we want to debate politics.

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    To Nick and the other contributors, please stick to sports. Throwing Max under the bus when you have no means of knowing what he is thinking or means by a social media post is 100% unacceptable. Burning down cities is not acceptable and will only worsen relationships. If you want to shame athletes for social media posts on here, that is your right, but I will not come here to read that. I will not touch the issue on here or any other sports site I follow.

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    Idiotic but typical would be my response.  There is a Harvard (hardly a conservative bastion) study out showing that blacks are shot LESS by police when you factor out the geographics, etc.  (ex: the study considers the fact that more hispanics get shot in hispanic neigborhoods.)  This study does not support the "narrative" that cops are out to get black guys.... so you won't hear it on CNN.   Now there certainly can be and IS racism exhibited by small populations of ALL races, but what has happened over the last week is directly related to the way the media covers these events.  CNN is making huge profits over this event.....which is the reason they continue to fuel the fire. 

     

    mlhouse nailed it:

    "The true fact is, the racial element in these matters are way overblown.Police often overreact to the situation and they should be held accountable. The violence and crime in these areas are beyond your comprehension.It is mostly black on black, minority on minority crimes.This overreaction will hurt these areas and they may never recover just like Detroit, LA, Newark and other cities that have had such levels of riot."

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    So when I was fresh out of college, I got my first sports writing gig as the Sports Editor at a small, local weekly paper in the horsey suburbs of Orlando, Florida.

     

    It was 1999, I was 24 years old and I thought I'd hit the big time. It just so happened that my first week on the job, there was a big MLB dust-up regarding the umpire strike. I was young, watched ESPN all the time, and I figured it would be great for me to write a full-page opinion piece for the paper about this topic. After all, I was a big time sports writer now! I wanted my voice to be heard alongside the big name reporters and networks.

     

    As you can probably guess, absolutely nobody who read the local newspaper gave a rat's behind about my opinion. And my publisher chewed me out. Why? Because that was a national story and I was supposed to be reporting on hyper-local topics, like the local swim meets and park board meetings. If our readers wanted to read national news stories, they'd buy the USA Today and turn on the network news.

     

    I think you get where I'm going here, Nick: there are a million places we can go online to fight/squabble/preach/complain about the situation going on in Minneapolis and around the country. I'm not saying you don't have a right to voice your opinions here - it's your site, your choice, and in some ways the whole point of this topic is to make yourself heard. That said, we can find other places to go down this wormhole.

     

    Most of us come here to talk Twins, to talk baseball. And we are very loyal to this site because we LOVE the Twins discussion topics here. We have a very diverse set of political opinions here, but the cool thing is that we don't get into that on TD. We can all be on the same team - when we fight, it's about Eddie Rosario and where he should hit in the batting order, rather than about political stuff, which can run deep and hit some toxic levels on all sides.

     

    Just some food for thought.

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    No Nick, our country is NOT broken.  No Nick, Max Kepler is NOT a racist.  No Nick, Chris Cuomo is a poor example to use.  He's the epitome of "do as I say, not as I do."

    I don't agree with a single thing your post stated.  I much prefer your baseball opinions.  You guys at TD opened Pandora's Box with this attack,  and make no mistake fellow TD readers, this was an ATTACK on Max Kepler.  A better target would have been the far left anarchist group ANTIFA.  THEY are who are fueling everything bad up in the Twin Cities and across the country now.  The bottom line is that ALL LIVES MATTER.  Anything less is an obscenity.  

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    Nick

    Why Twins Daily allows your political rants is beyond me. Your statement “ our country is broken “ is typical leftist agenda. I am sure the vast majority of Twins fans would much rather leave politics to a different venue. Your calling out Kepler on Twins Daily because he doesn’t meet your standards is pathetic. Twins Daily is not the place to have a political discussion. I for one think using Twins Daily for your posturing is immature and wrong placed.

    Twins Daily “lets” Nick post this article because he’s an owner and all the owners stand united on this issue, which is a humanitarian issue that America has failed at for four centuries.

     

    It doesn’t have to be political unless you make it political. I don’t see why facing the problem that we’ve failed black Americans can or should be a left/right issue unless you make it one.

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    There is no question this has exposed something deeply wrong in this police department. There were multiple upon multiple incidents prior with him - and for the other cops to stand still and silent - big personnel problems in this police force.

    There is no question this has exposed the anarchists and race hustlers, who are using this awful police brutality incident to further their political agenda. 

    It is racism - and it is politics. And it all belongs somewhere else outside this forum in my opinion. And I'll give Max the benefit of the doubt, as I'm sure Byron will.

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    Another media source that just doesn’t understand that not all whites and police are racist, not all blacks are criminals and yes, it IS possible to support law enforcement while condemning the horrible actions of bad cops.  What’s next, the defense of the people who destroyed businesses that employed and in some cases, were owned by people of color, the very people these “protesters” supposedly were trying to help?  If, I want to get lectured about how evil white people and law enforcement professionals are, I can get that many other places, not a forum where I thought the topic was a baseball team.

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    I don’t think trying somebody by social media, hurling accusations and insults, vandalizing strangers’ property and telling people they have to do more is very helpful. I do my best to treat all people with respect. I don’t care about the color of a person’s skin and I don’t jump to conclusions based on race. I’d like to see a thorough and open investigation into George’s death and have people talk about how to improve race relations and have people listen to each other. I believe Kepler’s explanation and up until a couple of years ago I might have made the same innocent mistake. Kepler seems like a quiet, decent, non-controversial guy who never gets in trouble. Maybe we should give him and all other people the benefit of the doubt. We should stand up to injustice when we see it. We should stop the silly social media rants. We shouldn’t make blanket accusations about the police or races. We should treat people with respect. For those of you who say that supporting the police or waiting to judge until a thorough investigation is held, I can’t disagree with you more. Two or more wrongs don’t make a right. The protesting is absolutely spot on if done with some thought. Vandalizing sets us all back, none more so than the property owners whose lives are affected.

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    To everyone trying to blow this out of the water by crying politics, knock it off. Nick clearly spelled out that this was not about politics, it was about apathy toward civil rights equality, specifically what appeared to be apathy from Max Kepler. You can agree or disagree with Nick's take that Kepler was showing apathy, but unless you actually believe equality for all races should not be a priority, this is not a red vs. blue debate.

     

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    To everyone trying to blow this out of the water by crying politics, knock it off. Nick clearly spelled out that this was not about politics, it was about apathy toward civil rights equality, specifically what appeared to be apathy from Max Kepler. You can agree or disagree with Nick's take that Kepler was showing apathy, but unless you actually believe equality for all races should not be a priority, this is not a red vs. blue debate.

    The fact that so many make equality a partisan issue says some pretty terrible things about us as a society.
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    With all due respect, Nick, I appreciate your right to voice your opinion, but I agree with the commenters who posted their thoughts that this isn't the forum for political discussions. Stepping over that line is a good way to lose readership in something you and your partners have worked hard to build.

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    With all due respect, Nick, I appreciate your right to voice your opinion, but I agree with the commenters who posted their thoughts that this isn't the forum for political discussions. Stepping over that line is a good way to lose readership in something you and your partners have worked hard to build.

    Our city is literally burning. Some things are more important than readership and this article, while Nick’s idea and execution, was ultimately a group decision.
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    Twins Daily “lets” Nick post this article because he’s an owner and all the owners stand united on this issue, which is a humanitarian issue that America has failed at for four centuries.

    It doesn’t have to be political unless you make it political. I don’t see why facing the problem that we’ve failed black Americans can or should be a left/right issue unless you make it one.

     

    Of course it's political. That's either a dishonest statement or an incredibly naive one.

     

    If you simply said, George Floyd's death was tragic, that's not political. Anything else you say after that - we need to reform/abolish the police, America is a failure, etc., is political. Talking about "comfortable white people" and "systemic injustice" is political. It was notable that Nick had nothing to say about the wanton destruction caused by criminals in Minneapolis - is opposition to rioting "political"?

     

    However, it is wrong to push a particular viewpoint and then say 'this isn't politics - this is basic humanity. You are evil if you don't see it exactly as I do.' This line is pushed for the sole reason of de-legitimizing other viewpoints. Nick of course is only parroting the line being put out by people like Cuomo; Nick himself added nothing to the discussion other than being 'bitterly disappointed' in one mid-level pro athlete.

     

    People die every day, in a significant number of cases due to the actions of other people. That's been the case for the entirety of human existence. It's believed that deaths from violence are lower than at any previous time in history, but even so, they are too high.

     

    Deaths from police brutality in the US are an extremely small portion of overall violent deaths. Attacking the police across the board for such incidents actually makes them more likely to occur in the first place, because fewer people will want to join, weakening the applicant pool, in addition to other factors that limit police effectiveness.

     

    The Freddie Gray case in Baltimore was tragic. The response - a weakened police force - has resulted in scores of additional murders, if not hundreds. Do those people not count? They were overwhelmingly minorities, some of them children. Yet there is complete silence about them.

     

    This selective outrage is morally indefensible, and 100% political. 

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    Like many of you, I read Twins Daily for its baseball content. However, I am very impressed and thankful that Nick Nelson posted this thoughtful article. For all of the commentators posting some version of "shut up and dribble," you need to realize that sports is not played in vacuum. The majority of professional athletes are people of color and are deeply affected by police brutality and white supremacy. White people (I am one) need to have empathy and try to understand the fear and rage that come with the real possibility of being murdered solely based upon your skin color. Having empathy is not (or should not be) political. Kepler's actions lacked this empathy and it is impossible to not to lose respect for him. I have never posted in the comments because they often devolve into hot take style negativity that I don't what to be a part of, however I felt it necessary to do so.

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