Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson reacted to Twitter criticism with a vulgar tweet for which he has received plenty of criticism. It took Jackson several hours to delete the tweet on Sunday night.
On Monday, Ravens coach John Harbaugh said he spoke with Jackson about the situation on Monday morning.
“[I] just beg guys to not to get into the Twitter world right after the game, especially after a loss,” Harbaugh said, via Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com. “It’s never going to be positive. It’s not going be a nice place, you know? That’s kind of reflected in Lamar’s response because . . . that’s not the way he speaks. It’s not the way he talks. It’s not the words he ever uses. I’ve never heard him say things like that before.”
Of course, plenty of people use language on Twitter that they don’t walk around spouting off to friends, family, or total strangers.
“Lamar Jackson, you’ve been around him,” Harbaugh said. “He’s got one of the biggest hearts of anybody I know. You all have seen him the way he treats people, the way he treats kids, the way he treats the media. And he is also one of the biggest competitors I’ve ever met. So those kind of conversations he takes very seriously. You get trapped sometimes by someone that’s baiting you just a little bit. And you can’t live there. I think that’s not a place he wants to be and that’s certainly not things that he wants to say.”
Harbaugh is right in that it’s natural to want to react to actual or perceived insults, especially in times of extreme stress. And while the tweet to which Jackson responded wasn’t all that bad in isolation, it may have simply been the straw that broke the camel’s back, after Jackson digested multiple hostile tweets from random Twitter users.
“He wants to win, I’m sure he is frustrated just like we all are,” Harbaugh said. “And that’s just a place you just don’t want to live right after a game. And I know he understands that.”
Again, Harbaugh is right. But good luck keeping young pro athletes away from Twitter. Whether it’s to seek some solace in a compliment or to explore out of curiosity whether and to what extent negativity is being spewed, football players will always be tempted to see what’s on social media after a game. And then they’ll be tempted to respond to the things they don’t like.
It’s inherently human to feel those feelings. It’s inherently human to want to respond. The hardest thing to do is to resist that very strong temptation to let someone hear it.
And when yielding to that temptation, it’s important to understand the import of the terms used. Frankly, there’s a very good chance that Jackson simply didn’t realize that the most problematic portion of the deleted tweet oozed with homophobia. (Indeed, plenty of people who are chiming in on the issue refuse to make the connection.)
Chances are that Jackson now understands the message conveyed by his choice of phrase, and that the next time he reacts to criticism he’ll use a different figure of speech.