A heavyweight fight for the ages, an ill-advised tweet and a carefully learned lesson
For much of the past 36 hours, I’ve had a pit at the bottom of my stomach. I slept poorly. I couldn’t concentrate on anything other than the quickly increasing number of mentions I had on Twitter.
It wasn’t a good thing.
I did a dumb thing. I tweeted something that many people took as racist at worst or as unenlightened, at best.
I was on the final days of a two-week vacation and was watching on DAZN when on Saturday Andy Ruiz scored one of the biggest upsets in the history of the heavyweight division by knocking out Anthony Joshua to become the first man of Mexican heritage to hold a version of the heavyweight title.
Ruiz now holds the IBF, WBA and WBO belts. With Deontay Wilder holding the WBC heavyweight title, American boxers now hold all four major heavyweight belts for the first time since 1992. Riddick Bowe had the IBF, WBA and WBC titles then, which he won from Evander Holyfield, and Michael Moorer held the WBO belt.
That’s the jumping off point for this story about my bad weekend and the tweet that unintentionally but understandably angered so many. When Ruiz won, I immediately tried to recall the last time Americans controlled all four belts. At the time on the DAZN broadcast, someone said Ruiz had done it for Mexico. That was the start of my problems. I tweeted the following:
My intent was simply to point out Americans held all the belts, but I was doing multiple things at once and my Tweet didn’t come out the way I wanted. It created a firestorm, and I got a lot of well-deserved heat.
I am distraught about it because I meant no ill will but also because I added to the insult many people of color feel in this country with those words. It was as if I demeaned them by what I’d written, diminishing the historic nature of Ruiz’s accomplishment. Nothing could make me feel worse than that.
My friend Andreas Hale hit it on the head in response to someone who tweeted something similar to what I had.
The result of my tweet is that the perception of me quickly became that of this out-of-touch white guy who wears a red MAGA hat and wants to send all the foreigners back to their own countries.
Those are the opposite of my values and anathema to how I’ve lived my life. I joined the NAACP a few years ago — My membership has since lapsed — because I wanted to show support for people of color as a result of the oppression and discrimination and sheer hatred they have unreasonably faced for far too long in this country.
I feel a lot better now, even though I know I’ve permanently alienated some people and given them a view of myself that is not accurate.
The reason is that I’ve reached out to friends who have given me a better understanding of things I wasn’t aware of or failed to entirely grasp.
My tweet wasn’t meant maliciously, but I wasn’t aware of the many ways that people of Latino descent have been discriminated against. My colleague, Elias Cepeda, and I had a lengthy discussion in which he helped me understand why some people took offense to my tweet.
Boxer Diego Magdaleno told me in a private message on Twitter about the struggles his father, a Mexican immigrant, faced. Even in the best of times, the challenges immigrants to the U.S. face are massive. Not speaking the language, understanding the culture and facing hostility from strangers in their new homes make it all the more difficult.
Magdaleno’s father, like centuries of people before him, took great risk in coming to the U.S. so that he could provide his family a better life. Magdaleno graciously said that my Tweet and our subsequent conversation allowed him to explain what he is trying to do for his child as an homage to his own father’s struggles.
“His sacrifices gave me the opportunity to do what I love,” Magdaleno wrote in a direct message on Twitter. “Now, I wake up at 4 a.m. to run for the 2-year-old I have. It’s ultimately to acknowledge what people of our heritage did and went through.”
Sergio Mora, the former world champion who is one of the best young broadcasters in the business, said people like Ruiz who are born in the U.S. and are from heavily populated Mexican areas like Southern California and Texas are raised as Mexicans. It should be noted that under the Mexican constitution, Ruiz is a Mexican citizen given his parents were born there.
No one reading a few words on Twitter can understand what was in one’s head and heart at the time it was being written. But my tweet came off poorly and didn’t convey accurately what I was trying to say. It also left open the interpretation that many leaped to, that I was just another white guy toeing the hardline against people of color.
I apologize to anyone I offended with the tweet. It made me think of my father, and the only time I ever saw him really angry. I wrote about that in April when I did a column on what would have been his 96th birthday.
One of the few times I could ever recall him being truly angry was when a neighbor was sitting on the deck of the pool talking with my parents. The man used a nasty, derogatory term to refer to African Americans. Almost as soon as he said it, I saw the rage on my Dad’s face.
Don’t you ever talk that way in front of my children, my father said to the man, fuming.
He later apologized to Keith and I for getting angry but encouraged us never to judge anyone by the color of their skin.
I have tried to never do that and to never let him down. While I didn’t mean it with any racial animus, some took my tweet that way and so I failed on my vow in that moment.
I could have deleted it, but I left it up so a conversation would ensue that could benefit those who read it, notably myself.
Beyond that, I can only say it won’t ever happen again.