“I used a poor choice of words.”
University of Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray had a few hours to enjoy winning the Heisman Trophy on Saturday night before he had to answer for tweets he posted when he was 14 and 15 years old.
Apparently inspired by Murray winning college football’s highest honor, several media outlets reported that Murray years ago used the anti-gay term “queers” as an insult in several tweets, most of them directed at friends. The tweets, widely deemed homophobic, were deleted from Murray’s account late Saturday night.
Early Sunday, Murray, who is now 21 years old, apologized for his youthful transgressions.
I apologize for the tweets that have come to light tonight from when I was 14 and 15. I used a poor choice of word that doesn’t reflect who I am or what I believe. I did not intend to single out any individual or group.
— Kyler Murray (@TheKylerMurray) December 9, 2018
Murray is just the latest in a long line of celebrities to face uproar over old tweets. Last week, Kevin Hart stepped down as host of the 2019 Academy Awards after his years-old homophobic tweets resurfaced. Over the past year, Roseanne Barr, Sara Jeong, James Gunn, and Joy Reid all got in trouble for old social media posts.
In this age of identity politics, there has been quibbling over whether every group’s internet ravings are judged and punished according to exactly the same morality. Some have suggested that Murray and Hart were criticized for comments that their white counterparts get a pass for.
For example, hours before the Murray brouhaha broke out, Hart’s friend Nick Cannon called out prominent female comedians for years-old tweets that used the words “fag” and “faggot,” apparently suggesting a double standard.
— Tariq Nasheed (@tariqnasheed) December 9, 2018
But Barr was fired from her hit ABC show while Reid got to stay on as an MSNBC host, and Murray and Hart went unpunished beyond the social media finger-wagging, to which the comedian caved.
Meanwhile, some conservatives have complained that figures on their side of the culture wars get pilloried while liberals get a pass. But Gunn, for one, lost his gig directing the “Guardian of the Galaxy” sequel for Disney.
Of course, every case is different, and some argue that there is value in reinforcing social values through this kind of ritual public shaming. But the growing consensus seems to be that it would be better to simply impose a moratorium on dredging up old tweets for opprobrium.
As Reason editor Robby Soave put it after the Murray news broke: “It’s time to declare an end to the practice of mining people’s past social media comments for fire-able offenses. This holds especially true for comments made by minors. … Next time, maybe the media could simply skip the step of trying to make everybody angry about such a stupid thing.”