Every big family faces the same dilemma around Thanksgiving: do you invite that one relative who annoys everyone, just because he’s family? Invite him, and he’ll infuriate the table; leave him off the list, and he’ll blast everyone from afar. Which way do you go?
The San Francisco Giants are hosting a family reunion this August to honor their 2010 World Series-winning team, and they’ve chosen the latter option with Aubrey Huff … which has, in turn, played out exactly as expected.
“Earlier this month, we reached out to Aubrey Huff to let him know that he will not be included in the upcoming 2010 World Series Championship reunion,” the Giants said in a statement. “Aubrey has made multiple comments on social media that are unacceptable and run counter to the values of our organization. While we appreciate the many contributions that Aubrey made to the 2010 championship season, we stand by our decision.”
Huff, who is now a vocal—to put it lightly—social media presence, did not take the snub well. Declaring himself “shocked” and “disappointed,” he criticized the Giants’ “politically correct, progressive bulls—t” to The Athletic. He also took to Twitter, charging that the Giants were banning him for his political views — and, just to make sure he got his message amplified, he tagged President Trump in the tweet:
— Aubrey Huff (@aubrey_huff) February 18, 2020
It makes for a great, camera-ready soundbite for the aggrieved-victim subculture that trails in the president’s wake: the progressive Giants in liberal San Francisco don’t like someone who backs President Trump! Our free speech is under attack!
It’s also completely wrong.
Start with the most basic facts: Charles Johnson, the principal owner of the Giants, is a well-known advocate of Republican causes, a billionaire who has donated more than $1.1 million to Republican candidates over the last 20 years, compared to $5,050 to Democrats. Plus, baseball franchises aren’t driven by politics, they’re driven by the bottom line, no matter whether the dollars are blue or red.
Huff was a key cog in the Giants’ run to the 2010 World Series; his “rally thong”—a men’s thong he wore the last month of the season for good luck—was one of the year’s most fun baseball stories. That year, he led the Giants in home runs and WAR, and finished seventh in the National League MVP voting.
Since then, he’s been a staunch social media supporter of the president and conservative causes. There’s no problem at all with that—matter of fact, more active and retired athletes ought to feel comfortable speaking out from the right side of the aisle. Nobody’s sticking to sports in sports anymore, and the conservative right has all the same rights to voice its beliefs in sports as the left does.
The problem with Huff’s presence at a Giants event isn’t his beliefs. It’s his words.
There’s a difference between espousing conservative ideals or making right-leaning jokes, and flipping over into outright abuse. Huff has leaped over that line on a constant and consistent basis, with two tweets in particular apparently troubling Giants officials:
On Iranian women, January 2020 (tweet deleted): “Let’s get a flight over and kidnap about 10 each. We can bring them back here as they fan us and feed us grapes, amongst other things.”
On Bernie Sanders, November 2019: “Getting my boys trained up on how to use a gun in the unlikely event @BernieSanders beats @realDonaldTrump in 2020. In which case knowing how to effectively use a gun under socialism will be a must. By the way most [of] the head shots were theirs.”
And more, a litany of direct insults and generalized critiques, right on up to that fast-and-loose statement above.
Tuesday morning on a Bay Area morning radio show, Huff doubled down, saying of new Giants coach Alyssa Nakken, “I don’t believe a woman should be in men’s pro sports ... There’s so many more people, especially men, who grind it out who deserve that spot more than she does. But I also don’t believe that men belong in women’s college sports or sports in general, either. Why would they want to be? I wouldn’t want to coach women in sports. Women are tough enough to deal with anyway.”
Even though women, am I right? jokes are about as cutting-edge as Austin Powers imitations, it’s absolutely Huff’s right to say these things. And it’s absolutely the Giants’ right not to want him around because he’s said these things. Individually, the tweets are annoying at best, troubling at worst. Collectively, they paint a picture of someone that the Giants—unanimously, according to Huff himself—don’t want associated with their organization.
“Giants officials have made it clear to me they are not banning Aubrey Huff because they dislike or disagree with his political views,” The Athletic’s Andrew Baggarly wrote on Twitter Monday night. “They believe he has crossed the line when it comes to misogyny, vulgarity and common decency. Words matter.”
That’s not a “violation of free speech,” no matter what Huff wants his followers to believe. This isn’t a First Amendment matter. One more time: Huff’s not being prosecuted by the government for his tweets. He won’t be arrested or jailed. But he has to accept responsibility for what he says. This isn’t a #MAGA issue, this isn’t a Trump issue, no matter how many conservative voices Huff may retweet saying it is. This is a Huff issue, nothing more.
Playing the victim against some faceless mob is easy, and in 2020 America, it can be a winning strategy. But the thing about free speech is, you still have to accept the consequences for what you say. Sometimes that means losing a job. And sometimes, it means people just don’t want you around.
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