When ‘social justice warriors’ go too far: Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray becomes latest witch hunt victim

  • Do we really need to call out something someone said six years ago as a teenager?
  • Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray was forced to apologise for tweets he sent when he was 14 and 15
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 13 December, 2018, 8:03pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 December, 2018, 8:32pm

Let’s start this with a caveat: homophobia is abhorrent, wrong and downright despicable.

The gay community need universal support in coming out, and we all need to realise love is love: gay or straight. It’s almost 2019, get used to it, enjoy and embrace it.

This world will be a much better place when coming out of the closet becomes a celebration, and not a reason to worry for those whose sexuality does not follow traditional lines.

That being said, something about calling out NCAA football star Kyler Murray this week for tweets he sent as a 14 and 15-year-old feel sadly misplaced.

Murray won the Heisman Trophy, given out to the top college football player each year, and was quickly raked over the coals just hours after being crowned, in a blatant, off-key hit-piece launched by USA Today’s Scott Gleeson, a journalist who “covers breaking news and social issues through a sports lens”.

Gleeson unearthed tweets Murray made six years ago where he used poor language in slagging off people on Twitter. Murray apologised, and a sense of social justice apathy washed over the internet, a collective sigh followed by one word: again?

What Murray did was wrong, but let’s get a few things straight: his generation is the first to grow up with social media and technology at their fingertips. This is new territory for everyone. Our youth are being forced to come of age in a rapidly different world than their parents, where everything is at the touch of a screen: endless entertainment, information galore.

Connectivity has hit light speed, and no one has a road map to navigate this new landscape. There is no precedent and no one has gone through this before.

If Twitter was around when I was 14, I would surely have put my foot in my mouth countless times, and I doubt anyone could argue otherwise. If anyone believes they’ve never said anything they’ve regretted as a teen, I would also like them to cast the first stone.

Second, the policing of verbiage in this age of outrage (and subsequent apologies) has officially gone overboard.

Murray’s big day, probably the biggest of his sporting career, was tainted by something he did while he was going through puberty, the most confusing and overwhelming time of anyone’s life.

If Murray had committed a crime at 14, the legal system would have tried him as a minor, and for good reason. Under the eyes of the law, he is not an adult, and responsibility for his actions need to be placed in proper context.

To say that any 14-year-old has the maturity to properly judge their own actions is dicey at best. Or, to put it in layman’s terms: kids do stupid things they do not even understand. Adolescence is a terribly disorientating age, and right at the top of the perplexing pyramid is sexuality.

I don’t pretend to know what it’s like to be gay. To feel threatened, persecuted or defamed because of my sexuality. But I’m not sure calling out Heisman Trophy winners for tweets they made while they were still in middle school helps us move forward as a society.

I’m not sure understanding starts with unearthing past discretions one made while they were trying to understand all the physical and mental changes bombarding their senses on a relentless basis.

If Murray had made these tweets today it would be a different story, and he has shown literally no similar behaviour since his original indiscretions. So where did we lose the ability to draw context, to scope a situation properly? Can we not distinguish the difference between actual hate speech, and immaturity given an unfortunate soapbox?

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Gleeson’s piece was written to do one thing: to call out someone while they were atop the news cycle. Someone went looking for dirt on him, and the best they could find was something he did as a kid, and in today’s age of overt identity politics, that is apparently newsworthy enough for the third largest newspaper in America to run a story on. The subsequent apology piece also got picked up by daily newspapers across the country.

Murray’s tweets were never going to stop the forward progress of the gay rights’ movement, nor are they anything more than incoherent rambling of a teenager typing something regrettable.

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Maybe it’s time we stop asking everyone to apologise and start moving away from persecuting every verbal slight? Progress is inevitable, since Murray’s tweets came out in 2012, numerous nations have legalised same sex marriage in groundbreaking steps and there was a landmark ruling here in Hong Kong.

Ruining people’s moments in the sun for questionable past indiscretions seems petty, and nothing more than a fame-seeking witch hunt.

Is this how we want to spend our time? Calling out victors, riding the coattails of their accomplishments for clicks and back-patting from the ultra sensitive crowd who prowl social media like trolls policing language like Communist era lackeys?

Come on, we’re better than this.