Brewers reliever Josh Hader

Benny Sieu/USA Today Sports

Bernstein: Short-Sighted Fans Celebrate Hader

The public embrace of Josh Hader came far too soon, far too easily.

Dan Bernstein
July 22, 2018 - 5:23 pm
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(670 The Score) Those were quite the optics in Milwaukee on Saturday night, as 36,000 people sent a message to Brewers reliever Josh Hader, with many rising to their feet for extra, full-throated emphasis.

"No worries about using the N-word multiple times, Josh! We're with you!! It's OK!" was one inference.

"YEAHH!! KKK!! Damn right, white power!!" was another.

It was an ugly look even if the implied sentiment intended was largely something more nuanced, along the lines of accepting an apology and welcoming him back because he's really good at throwing a baseball. The mass cheering was an over-the-top insult to the groups that Hader offended with the tweets he posted proudly when he was 17 and that were unearthed last week. The crowd of mostly white and straight people was happy to demonstrate to the world that the feelings of those not like them matter far less than just having their guy back.

Applauding Hader for on-field success upon his comeback and expressions of contrition and understanding would be one thing, but this swell of reflexive support just for walking out to the mound gave the appearance of needless aggressiveness, a defiant display that reeked of recently reinvigorated elements that once would have been ashamed of unmasking themselves and now excuse nastiness by clinging to their perceived right to free speech without consequences.

Hader has said all the right things as part of the well-worn protocol of damage control and crisis public relations, insisting he's not racist or anti-gay but was just playing so when in high school in Maryland. It's possible he means it, and the immediate backlash to his racist and ant-gay statements has been the catalyst for him to begin to change and grow as a person. It's also possible he's a total racist scumbag and is lying through his teeth.

The point is that I don't know and you don't know, but a stadium full of Brewers fans was sure certain in the moment and couldn't wait to tell us so, as were those who leaped to defend them on social media.

Those fans are either rock-solid convinced that Hader really isn't horrible or they don't think that his comments make him so because they agree with him. Another possibility is the murky area between the two, the place where some people get all the benefit of every doubt in ways that other professional athletes may not.

It would be instructive to see the intersections on a Venn diagram that shows how the circle of vocal Brewers fans might overlay with those attacking NFL players for peacefully protesting injustice or those unable or unwilling to empathize with Bucks guard Sterling Brown when he was profiled and assaulted by Milwaukee police.

Crowd behavior has a way telling truths in a manner that the response of an individual may not. Social facilitation has a powerful effect on psychology and subsequent action, with inhibitions suppressed by the perception of relative safety in numbers.

That unsolicited public embrace of Josh Hader came far too soon and way too easily.

Dan Bernstein is a co-host of 670 The Score’s Bernstein & McKnight Show in middays. You can follow him on Twitter @dan_bernstein.​​