Category Archives: Social Media

This Is Us: Softball’s walkout that the media missed

By Pershelle Rohrer

October 6, 2020

Pershelle Rohrer is a second-year BGSU student from Logan, Utah. She is a Sport Management major with a minor in Journalism. Her primary sports interests are football, basketball, and baseball, both at the professional and collegiate levels.

On June 22, 2020, the Scrap Yard Dawgs, an independent professional softball team, played the first of what was supposed to be a seven-game series against Florida-based USSSA Pride. The game marked the return of softball, as the sport was one of the first to restart from the coronavirus-related shutdown that effectively halted sports in March. The New York Times writer Natalie Weiner (2020) noted, “For a few hours this week, softball had a shot at something it has pursued for decades: the spotlight” (para. 1). The sport did receive attention following the game, but it wasn’t because of the teams’ play on the field. Rather, a mid-game tweet from Scrap Yard’s general manager caused an uproar that led all 18 players and the team’s coaches to walk away from the team (Poe, 2020).

When the players arrived back in the locker room following the game, they were met with screenshots and texts about the tweet. Scrap Yard general manager Connie May posted a photo on Scrap Yard’s Twitter page of the team standing on the field during the national anthem, tagging President Donald Trump’s Twitter handle with the caption, “Hey @realDonaldTrump Pro Fastpitch being played live … Everyone standing for the FLAG!” (Poe, 2020, para. 3). The President has been critical of athletes who kneel for the national anthem in protest of police brutality and racial injustice. The tweet was posted at the height of the Black Lives Matter movement, just shy of a month after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The tweet was deleted before the conclusion of the game.

The players quickly identified May as the poster of the tweet and met with her to discuss the issue. May used the phrase “all lives matter” during the meeting, a statement that is often used in opposition to “Black lives matter” in order to disregard the struggles of the Black community to find justice and equality (Weiner, 2020). Kiki Stokes, one of Scrap Yard’s two Black players, walked out of the meeting, and the rest of the team followed (Hays, 2020b).

Players expressed their frustration about the politicization of the post. Pitcher and Olympic gold medalist Cat Osterman said, “We were used as pawns in a political post, and that’s not OK” (Weiner, 2020, para. 9). USSSA Pride player A.J. Andrews emphasized the freedom to express personal political beliefs but opposed speaking for an entire group without consent. “Any statement anyone wants to make regarding the national anthem — it’s their right to take their own personal stand. It’s no one else’s right to take that for them. So to have someone shift that and have it come out in a statement that does not represent you as a person — you feel violated,” she said (Brunt, 2020, para. 9).

The story spread through the players’ social media accounts, which they used to call out Connie May. Aubree Munro and Aubrey Leach both emphasized that “this isn’t us” and stated that they wouldn’t play for Scrap Yard again.

May’s tweet from the Scrap Yard page was a deviation from the norm. Jade Hewitt, a longtime employee of Scrap Yard, managed the team’s social media almost exclusively. It was unusual for anyone else to post to the Scrap Yard accounts, so when May’s tweet was posted, many people assumed that it was written by Hewitt (Hays, 2020a). May’s decision to tweet from the official account not only took away the voices of the players, but also caused Hewitt to receive backlash for something that she did not post (Hays, 2020a).  It was a demonstration of how quickly a social media post can spread and the impact it can have on the image of the individuals involved with its creation.

Hewitt said, “I did not write or post that tweet. It is not what I personally stand for. I stand by our athletes, I stand by our players. And Scrap Yard is no longer an organization that I will be affiliated with” (Hays, 2020a, para. 13).

Scrap Yard’s players pledged to never represent the organization again, and many fans and media members assumed that their season was over. However, the players felt that they could continue to make an impact on the field. Yahoo Sports’ Chris Cwik (2020) wrote, “The players may have left the Scrap Yard Dawgs behind, but had no intention of walking away from softball, especially after what happened. So they did the next best thing: They started their own team” (para. 3). The 18 players, 11 of whom are listed on the United States roster for the Tokyo Olympics, rebranded as “This Is Us” with the intention of continuing their series against the USSSA Pride (Poe, 2020). The team developed a mission statement, saying that This Is Us is “here to spark a necessary change in the softball community, gaining and sharing knowledge about racial injustice in our world” (Hays, 2020b, para. 4). 

The team put their words into action following their first game under the new brand. This Is Us defeated the Pride, 3-1, on June 27. Kiki Stokes and Samantha Show took a stand against social injustice by kneeling for the national anthem prior to the contest, and Sam Fischer led a moderated panel discussion on the field following the game. Stokes, Show, Aubree Munro, and Taylor Edwards participated in the discussion about the events of the past week (Rosenberg, 2020).

Media members praised the players of Scrap Yard for making the difficult decision to leave the team behind despite the potential financial insecurity it could cause. The Orlando Sentinel’s Julia Poe (2020) talked about the risk behind the decision, explaining that, “Professional softball is a high-risk, low income sport in the U.S., with players coaching or picking up extra jobs on the side to support their careers” (para. 11). ESPN’s Graham Hays (2020b) wrote that Scrap Yard was one of the most lucrative options for softball players to compete professionally without going overseas to Japan. Natasha Watley, the first Black softball player for team USA, emphasized that, “We’re already getting paid pennies and now we’re going to get paid nothing to stand up for this. That’s how much it matters” (Poe, 2020, para. 14).

Despite the potential financial issues the walkout could cause, Cat Osterman explained that the decision to rebrand was easy. “We’re not going to tolerate that in our sport. It wasn’t as hard of a decision as everyone thinks it was, because we knew it was the right thing to do,” she said (Weiner, 2020, para. 20).

This Is Us played through donations and fundraising before Smash It Sports helped sponsor the team. USSSA helped provide uniforms for the team and planned on hosting the team for at least 20 games against the Pride with the season ending on July 24 (Rosenberg, 2020). However, the season was cancelled on July 8 after just five games due to This Is Us being exposed to COVID-19 (Hays, 2020c). 

While This Is Us didn’t have the opportunity to finish their season, their story was covered by national news outlets such as the New York Times and Associated Press (Rosenberg, 2020). However, sports media, particularly ESPN, had little to no coverage of the series of events. Graham Hays was the only ESPN writer to cover This Is Us, writing three articles about their journey from quitting Scrap Yard to the rebrand to the season’s cancellation. ESPN’s social media accounts do not have any coverage of this story. Social media plays a major influence in fans’ perceptions of sports, and ESPN’s lack of coverage could be a cause of This Is Us’ story remaining virtually unknown in the sports world three months later. Yahoo Sports’ Chris Cwik, Softball America’s Benjamin Rosenberg, and Sports Illustrated’s Jenna West also released stories about This Is Us, but it remains unknown how much more coverage an entire team’s disaffiliation would have received if it occurred in a more popular sport. 

The rebranding of the Scrap Yard players into This Is Us helped inspire change in a predominantly white sport. “Playing would be really powerful, taking that control back that was taken away from us,” This Is Us player Sam Fischer noted (Hays, 2020b, para. 8). That goal should be considered a success, as the softball world united behind the 18 players who walked out and supported them on their goal for achieving racial equality. Although their season was short, This Is Us looks to continue to fight for social justice in 2021 and beyond.

References

Aubree_Munro1. (2020, June 22). Tonight we were misrepresented by Connie May who acted on behalf of @ScrapYardFP I’m appalled by the insentivity & will not represent Scrap Yard ever again. I’m so sorry to all my friends & teammates and the future softball players that are hurt by this. [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/Aubree_Munro1/status/1275247782648053760?s=20

aubrey_lynne10. (2020, June 22). THIS ISN’T US! What has happened was incredibly inconsiderate, we do not condone, and will no longer be supporting @ScrapYardFP due to the actions taken behind our backs. This season was ment to be something special, to be a light in the darkness. [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/aubrey_lynne10/status/1275239965862002692?s=20

aubrey_lynne10. (2020, June 22). [Statement following Connie May tweet] [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/aubrey_lynne10/status/1275245355995664384?s=20

Brunt, C. (2020, June 25). Pro softball team suffers fallout after GM’s anthem tweet. Associated Press. https://apnews.com/article/b624cbde1bff8817ee8a112646f5322e

Cwik, C. (2020, June 26). How a Donald Trump tweet controversy inspired pro softball players to speak out and form a new team. Yahoo! Entertainment. https://www.yahoo.com/entertainment/how-a-donald-trump-tweet-controversy-inspired-pro-softball-players-to-stand-up-and-form-a-new-team-191245388.html

Hays, G. (2020a, June 23). Scrap Yard Dawgs softball players walk out after GM’s tweet about national anthem. ESPN. https://www.espn.com/olympics/softball/story/_/id/29353915/scrap-yard-dawgs-softball-players-walk-gm-tweet-national-anthem

Hays, G. (2020b, June 27). Ex-Scrap Yard softball players return to form This Is Us team. ESPN. https://www.espn.com/olympics/softball/story/_/id/29372544/ex-scrap-yard-softball-players-return-form-us-team

Hays, G. (2020c, July 8). ‘This Is Us’ all-star softball team cancels season 2 weeks after launch. ESPN. https://www.espn.com/olympics/softball/story/_/id/29431087/this-us-all-star-softball-team-cancels-season-2-weeks-launch

Poe, J. (2020, June 29). This Is Us softball team formed in response to Donald Trump anthem tweet. Orlando Sentinel. https://www.orlandosentinel.com/sports/os-sp-softball-this-is-us-anthem-donald-trump-20200630-qaoyfr4oxfd57b5wowelpjzjr4-story.html

Rosenberg, B. (2020, July 6). This Is Us Softball hopes to continue fight for racial justice. Softball America. https://www.softballamerica.com/stories/this-is-us-softball-hopes-to-continue-fight-for-racial-justice/

Weiner, N. (2020, June 24). A softball team’s tweet to Trump leads players to quit mid-series. New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/24/sports/scrap-yard-softball-anthem-tweet.html

Conspiracy Theories, Scandals and Public Trials: The Houston Astros Investigation on Twitter

By Griffin Olah

Griffin is a second-year undergraduate BGSU student from North Ridgeville, Ohio. He is a Sport Management major and a Journalism minor. His primary sports interests are baseball and football, both collegiate and professional, but he is also interested in basketball, MMA, boxing and hockey

The Houston Astros are a topic that has been discussed ad nauseam within the sports world. Everyone is focusing on the punishment, the crimes, and the reactions. The investigation, however, is no longer the focus. If you remember back to the middle of January, however, you may remember the craziest day in recent baseball history. This is the day that social media handed down the confirmation of the Astros cheating scandal that the MLB was looking for. Instead of a private investigation, the Houston Astros were tried by the public eye for the world to see, spawning some of the greatest stories in recent memory.

Once allegations came down, a relatively unknown podcast host and Yankees fan by the name of Jimmy “Jomboy” O’Brien saw his following grow faster than he could ever imagine. O’Brien, the proprietor of Jomboy Media, was best known for posting the video of Aaron Boone’s now-infamous “Savages in that Box” rant on Twitter (Young, 2019). When he saw the Astros allegations, however, he transformed into internet sleuth. When the world was in disbelief of the claims of the Astros cheating, O’Brien delivered a bombshell packed into a simple 2:20 video on Twitter. O’Brien cracked the code and found video proof the Astros cheated.

O’Brien’s initial tweet was retweeted over 37,000 times and liked more than 100,000 times. A lesser-known media man was now an internet sensation and the leading authority on everything Astros related. Then, the talk about buzzers leaked and Jomboy Media again went to work to expose the latest scandal. O’Brien found a new image containing what may have been an electronic buzzer on Astros catcher Robinson Chirinos’s batting glove. 

At the same time as O’Brien’s image came to light, a new account vied for interest. After the Astros fired manager AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow, the Red Sox firing manager Alex Cora and the Mets firing their manager Carlos Beltran, it seemed like the scandal was done. Then, the buzzers came to light. 

A private account on Twitter, @S0_blessed1, began a tweetstorm that changed the landscape of MLB. The anonymous account accused Astros superstars Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman of wearing buzzers under their jerseys to relay signs to them. Curiously, the account apologized to their “tio,” which means uncle in Spanish. Speculation immediately ran as to who the uncle was and why this person was exposing more possible methods used by the Astros on their way to a now tainted World Series victory. 

As the identity of @S0_blessed1 was being searched for, many reputable sources agreed with the account’s claims. Cincinnati Reds pitcher and noted critic of the Astros Trevor Bauer confirmed that he had heard talk within MLB about the Astros wearing buzzers. O’Brien also confirmed he was hearing similar things from sources in MLB. 

Amid this media storm, many people were looking for the identity of the anonymous account. Based on the “tio” comment, many pointed to Carlos Beltran, the disgraced former Mets manager. Since the account broke the news of Beltran’s firing days before the Mets formally announced it or any other major media outlets carried it, many believed the owner of the account was close to the former player and manager. 

Twitter then took the bait from Beltran’s “niece” and ran with it. Kenny Ducey found the home run in the ALCS that was mentioned in the “niece’s” tweets and slowed down the end of Altuve’s trot. The slow-mo video seems to show Altuve holding his jersey tight against his body and telling the mob of teammates at home plate to not rip off his jersey. Then, there is the disputed audio of Altuve possibly saying “I’m wearing a wire.” 

That last part, as already stated, had been disputed. Some have said that it is Altuve speaking Spanish, which many people would not be able to lip read and equate to a wire. Altuve himself did not dispute the fact that he didn’t want his jersey torn off, telling dugout reporter Ken Rosenthal that he, “got in trouble with [his] wife” for taking his shirt off on television in the past (Garro, 2019, para. 9). In the past few days, Carlos Correa came out and confirmed that Altuve’s wife was not happy with him for taking his shirt off and also mentioned an “unfinished tattoo that looked kinda bad” on his collarbone that he didn’t want to show on television (Anderson, 2020, para. 7). 

Obviously, possible proof that Altuve was wearing a wire in the 2019 postseason, which was not part of the Commissioner’s Report, would make the scandal grow even more with possibly worse repercussions. While immunity was granted to the players in relation to the investigation into the 2017 iteration of the sign-stealing scheme, a new investigation may not be so kind. The potential ramifications are mind-numbing to think of, and the accusations themselves destroy any possible respect or goodwill for the team. 

Without Twitter and the dedication of the public to get to the truth, none of this would come to light. While the Commissioner conducted his own report, the findings are limited when compared to the scope of the Twitter investigation. Clearly, all Twitter sources are not to be trusted, and some here are untrustworthy. As the days wore on and the tweets from @S0_blessed1 became more and more ludicrous and eventually disappearing, the account’s credibility was called into question. Eventually, it was determined that the account was run by a noted Twitter troll, or someone who dispenses false information for comedic or personal value, and almost none of the information was considered true. But if the account made up all its claims, why is there so much evidence supporting it? 

Twitter is often seen as a cesspool of false and fake information, which is true in part. Some believe that it has no value in modern society, which can also be true. Nobody, though, can diminish the role that social media, and Twitter, in particular, played in the investigation into the Astros’ nefarious ways. One of the main principles of journalism is to be the watchdog for larger government entities, corporations, and organizations. On January 16. 2020, Twitter took on that role and conducted its own investigation. Without internet sleuths like Jomboy, Kenny Dacey and so many others, the full extent of this scheme may never have been realized. Maybe in the future, Twitter and the public as a whole can solve more of these mysteries and bring to light the wrongdoings of teams, organizations, corporations and other massive entities like the Houston Astros.

References

Anderson, R.J. (2020, February 16). Astros’ Carlos Correa fires back at Cody Bellinger, reveals new reason why Altuve didn’t want jersey removed. CBS Sports. Retrieved from: https://www.cbssports.com/mlb/news/astros-carlos-correa-fires-back-at-cody-bellinger-reveals-new-reason-why-altuve-didnt-want-jersey-removed/

Bauer, Trevor [@BauerOutage]. (2020, January 16). I’ve heard this from multiple parties too, for what it’s worth…[Tweet]. Twitter. https://twitter.com/BauerOutage/status/1217888647468310528?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1217888647468310528&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fsports.yahoo.com%2Fa-new-astros-cheating-conspiracy-theory-has-set-twitter-ablaze-205503577.html

Ducey, Kenny [@KennyDucey]. (2020, January 16). Altuve making sure he keeps that jersey on (via r/nyyankees)[Tweet]. Twitter. https://twitter.com/KennyDucey/status/1217888139072745474

Garro, A. (2019, October 19). Congrats to the Astros for clinching a trip to the World Series in the most adorable way possible. Cut4. Retrieved from: https://www.mlb.com/cut4/jose-altuve-keeps-jersey-on-after-winning-alcs-with-homer

Jomboy [@Jomboy_]. (2019, November 19). Astros using cameras to steal signs, a breakdown[Tweet]. Twitter. https://twitter.com/jomboy_/status/1194348775965437952?lang=en.

Jomboy [@Jomboy_]. (2019, November 18). I have no idea what an electronic buzzer looks like but someone just sent me this as a ‘maybe that’s[Tweet]. Twitter. https://twitter.com/jomboy_/status/1196525061659906050?lang=en

Oz, M. (2020, January 16). A new Astros cheating conspiracy theory has sent Twitter into a frenzy. Yahoo! Sports. Retrieved from: https://sports.yahoo.com/a-new-astros-cheating-conspiracy-theory-has-set-twitter-ablaze-205503577.html

Young, D. (2019, August 17). Jomboy is obviously good for baseball, and the Yankees should lighten up. New York Daily News. Retrieved from: https://www.nydailynews.com/sports/baseball/yankees/ny-jomboy-savages-mlb-bill-simmons-20190817-hho4pn2mlvcghjdmlozroxh4se-story.html

The Spurs Team Doctors Will See You Now

By Bre Moorer

Bre Moorer is now a graduate student at Bowling Green State University, where she is studying Kinesiology with a specialization in Sport Psychology.  She is originally from Akron, Ohio, about forty miles south of Lake Erie.  Her primary sport interest is basketball – at the amateur and professional levels.

Former Spurs small forward Kawhi Leonard (below right) is now a Toronto Raptor.  The 2019 NBA free agency run this summer was rocky for the California native.  For the 2017-18 season, Leonard played fewer than 10 games due to an injury that team doctors in San Antonio missed.  At least that is what the reason was early on.

An injury to Leonard’s right thigh kept him out of 2017-18 preseason play, the season-opener, and the first 2 months of NBA action.  It should be known that Leonard was a major part of the San Antonio Spurs organization.  The former San Diego State standout lead the Spurs to their fifth championship in 2014, in addition to winning NBA Finals’ MVP for his outstanding performance.  How did he only play 9 games last season?  Shortly after his limited-minute comeback against the Dallas Mavericks in December, Leonard felt that he was being rushed back.

Leonard is known for his quiet and private personality, but fans could tell he did not feel confident playing yet.  Sometimes Leonard suited up, but most of the time he took a night or two off.  Leonard took it upon himself to travel to New York to get a second opinion on his injury.  He felt like he should have been 100% by then.  NBA analysts wondered why he would embarrass the Spurs staff by refusing the services offered to him for free and in his own backyard.  Leonard was portrayed by the media as bratty and just another professional athlete who was not patient enough after an injury. Sports reporter and well-known Spurs fan Michelle Beadle said Leonard did not have the qualities that a leader is supposed to have.  She even went as far as saying that he is coming off as an “obnoxious diva.”  Leonard took verbal beat-downs from fans, journalists, and social media for not playing and refusing to work with the Spurs team doctor.  Of course, the reserved NBA All-Star did not publicly defend himself, but his decisions would become clear to critics after teammate Danny Green told all.

Just like Leonard, Danny Green (above left) was traded from the Spurs to the Toronto Raptors this summer.  Seemingly before the ink could dry on his Toronto contract, Green said that his end-of-the-season physical examination revealed a torn groin that went undetected by Spurs staff, which lead to Green getting a second opinion while he was still a Spur.  Maybe it is because of the difference in personalities or the fact that Green still managed to play through his injury, but the general public was not as hard on Green for going elsewhere for treatment.  His Twitter mentions were filled with users that claimed getting another opinion on injuries is very common.  It was even discussed on ESPN that Green’s undetected injury may let Leonard’s actions off the hook.  In other words, now that Danny Green had a problem with the Spurs staff, we can believe Kawhi Leonard.

However you look at it, there is an issue that needs to be fixed in San Antonio.  It could be negligence or innocent lack of knowledge, but it is costing players their reputations, health, and market value.