Ald. Khalif Rainey
Press Release

Milwaukee drops the ball again on race relations

Statement from Alderman Rainey on standing ovation for Josh Hader - July 23, 2018

By - Jul 23rd, 2018 03:38 pm

Milwaukee has been blessed with a great sports legacy. As an upper-Midwestern city, in many instances, the rest of the world learns about Milwaukee through our sports teams, players and fans. Athletes like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Hank Aaron, who in the face of racism and discrimination, united fans of all ethnic backgrounds. But as I look around in 2018 I wonder how much progress has been made in the decades since those great names dominated their respective sports.

Earlier this year, we saw footage of Milwaukee Bucks player Sterling Brown, an African-American, harassed by police officers. I applaud the Bucks franchise for issuing a statement that took a courageous stance in recognizing this incident speaks to a larger problem related to race. “Unfortunately this isn’t an isolated case. It shouldn’t require an incident involving a professional athlete to draw attention to the fact that vulnerable people in our communities have experienced similar, and even worse, treatment.”

Just last week, we saw homophobic and racist tweets including “white power” surface from Brewers pitcher Josh Hader, a Caucasian man. The tweets preceded his time as a professional baseball player to when he was 17. In a statement, Brewers General Manager David Stearns calls the comments “inexcusable” but did not take the opportunity to acknowledge Hader’s comments are an example of a larger issue related to racism. “Those of us that have come to know Josh do not believe that these posts are representative of his beliefs. He has been a good teammate and contributor to the team in every way. We will continue to work through this issue with Josh as we prepare to resume games after the break.”

What occurred during Josh Hader’s first appearance since those tweets surfaced is most troubling. Thousands of fans gave the pitcher a standing ovation. This frankly is an embarrassment to the world. The boisterous manner of standing to show support for Hader is nothing less than a dismissive stance against problems of race affecting an entire community: a community dealing with the effects of hypersegregation, economic disparity and police harassment.

The act of crowd members rising to their feet to cheer Hader ignores these very issues that NFL players seek to highlight while kneeling in silent protest during the national anthem. I am deeply concerned that President Trump continues to castigate those football players, recently recommending suspension for those who do not stand “at attention, hand on heart.” Although it seems cynical, I cannot help but think it comes down to skin color.

The Hader incident at Miller Park highlights circumstances with which the Sterling Brown incident could transpire. I urge residents of Milwaukee, its suburbs and Wisconsin to think about their actions on these issues and the words they speak whether it’s at a fish fry, picnic or on social media. Let us honor the great sports legacy of Milwaukee by having the courage to acknowledge problems being felt in parts of the city and some of the structural problems working against those members of the community.

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9 thoughts on “Milwaukee drops the ball again on race relations”

  1. Paul says:

    I consider myself sensitive to issues of race, but I do not get why the standing ovation was “troubling.” Was Hader not being applauded and supported precisely because he apologized for his hateful comments? The ovation should in no way be seen as an endorsement of his comments!

  2. Thomas Spellman says:

    WOW I guess Harder MUST apologize the sooner the better. Who would have thought that he would get a standing ovation from some of the fans.

  3. This is an article that needed to be written. Let me be clear. I am NOT African American and I AM an avid Brewers fan. But when I heard the announcers describe the standing O for Hader, it upset me deeply. Yes, he did appear repentant when he apologized to the team. Yes, he was only 17 when he wrote the sordid and inflammatory tweets. But much more needed to come from this than an apology and a warning to young people to watch what they say online. Much, much more needed to come from team leadership, team members, and surely, the crowd. What did that standing O say about our city’s citizens? That they understood his humiliation? Perhaps. But the humiliation should never trump the views that young Hader put forth. And the standing O was a dark moment for our city. I hope there are other Milwaukeeans who agree.

  4. PMD says:

    I am with you Jill. Forgiveness is fine but Hader is not a victim here. The standing ovation so soon after the tweets were revealed was embarrassing and stupid and makes Milwaukee look bad. National press has been ruthless, and rightfully so. I see people complaining that the media is being mean and overgeneralizing the fan base, but the criticism is warranted. I never said anything like that when I was 17/18. It’s no excuse and really not that long ago. Let’s pause before we give standing ovations. But I do somewhat agree with those who have pointed out this is a sports thing and not just a Milwaukee thing. The standing ovation would likely have happened in many other cities. Boston would have made him mayor by now.

  5. David says:

    I’m with Paul on this.
    If Hader had posted those things as a Pro, I think fans would have reacted differently. Not only that, but the Brewers would have expected blowback and would have cut or traded him. If there were an issue of racism, his teammates would have exposed him for it.
    Mr. Alderman:
    As an elected official, you should want to reflect the voice of the people. I don’t know what the attendance was at that game, but I am pretty sure that it was a balance of gender, race, religion, social/economical class, education level, and age. If the vast majority showed they are ready to move on, you are not doing yourself a service by trying to guilt Milwaukee into demonizing Hader for his comments made as a 17 year old.
    You would have been better served by saying something like: “I respect the voice of the Milwaukee Brewers fans…I just hope Milwaukee Brewers fans can understand why they will not see me or my family wearing a Hader jersey.”

  6. PMD says:

    David when is the last time you attended a Brewers game? For the last 20 years I have attended anywhere from four or five to twenty games a season. Attendance is not nearly as diverse as you claim. It’s very white, and going to a game is not cheap so it’s hardly a wide range when it comes to social/economic class. That his teammates are forgiving him is not justification for the standing ovation. Again, Hader is not a victim and these tweets were freshly exposed. There was no good reason to give him a standing ovation. There is a reason for the national outcry over it. It was dumb and it doesn’t make the fanbase look good. Also, how often do teams cut or trade a controversial player that’s really good? That comment shows a naivete about the sports world.

  7. PMD says:

    Based on who watches baseball games, 83% of baseball fans are white and most of them are over 55. https://www.vox.com/2016/10/27/13416798/cubs-dodgers-baseball-white-diverse

    As many writers including Jay Caspian King have noted, baseball is very white, and not just the owners, front office, and players. The fanbase too. MLB knows this and in the past has aggressively recruited minority fans.

  8. ELLEN FREDERICK says:

    I attend a fair number of games every year. I was at the game in question. A few observations:
    his teammates know him better than the fans do. If Jesus was willing to tweet out his support for Hader, that tells me something.
    His teammates were behind him at the media events after the offensive comments became public.
    At least one of his teammates applauded ON THE FIELD as Hader entered the game. Again they know him better than any of us.

    I applauded – from my seat – the same amount as I would have before. My applause was meant to recognize Hader’s talents on the baseball field.

    I *was* extremely uncomfortable at the time that many chose to stand up and applaud. I thought it was in bad taste to say the least. Having said that, we can’t know why each individual was standing
    * applauding his apology?
    * applauding his teammates solidarity in standing behind him?
    * or applauding the content of his totally unacceptable and reprehensible tweets?

    We’ll never know the motivations for each person who decided to stand. But we should expect, encourage, and insist that Hader and the Brewers organization act to address the systemic racism in Milwaukee by putting money and time toward improving the city. Just one suggestion, how about a new initiative to bring Little League baseball into the city and maybe put Hader in charge of that effort).

    If the Brewers as an organization can’t figure out how to step and be a part of the solution, maybe they could have a conversation with the Bucks ownership group. They seem to get it.

  9. PMD says:

    Fair points Ellen. What exactly are the Brewers doing right now to be part of the solution? How are they addressing this beyond a standard press release? The Bucks ownership group does seem to be a good model here.

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