New York Mets pitcher Matt Harvey decided to commemorate the 6 month anniversary of his Tommy John surgery with a picture on Twitter. The picture shows Harvey smiling and offering his middle finger to the camera from the time of the operation.
It’s a little crass, yes, but it’s funny and harmless. Athletes have tweeted a LOT worse, right? Besides, don’t you want your star pitcher to say “—- you” to surgery and having him miss a season? Wouldn’t fans and the team be content to see that Matt Harvey is attacking Tommy John surgery and doing so with a sense of humor instead of moping off into the shadows never to be seen or heard from again?
If you’re the New York Mets, evidently not.
The team admitted that they asked Harvey to take the picture down saying they felt it was “inappropriate.”
Harvey responded by then deleting his entire Twitter account, but not before one final shoutout to Qualcomm.
(Ok I may be making that last part up.)
It seems to be an extreme series of events for a relatively innocuous picture, but Harvey’s reasoning for taking his ball and going home actually makes sense. If he can’t be himself on Twitter, then he may as well not use Twitter. Harvey told the New York Daily News:
“I’m not going to apologize for being myself and having a good laugh (in) a funny little picture,” Harvey said. “When you can’t really have fun anymore on a social media account, I think it comes time to get rid of it. I’ll have my fun with my friends and teammates, who do know me for who I am.”
He then made another sharp point: “I honestly didn’t think there was anything wrong with it. You listen to the radio and you hear a lot of rap music and things that are a lot worse than what I was showing — genuine excitement and a little bit of laughter toward a picture.”
There are countless examples of athletes who deserved to get in trouble on Twitter or should have their account taken away from them for their own good – but surely a humorous picture flipping the bird to Tommy John surgery doesn’t fall into that category. If anyone was really offended by that picture, then they desperately need a reality check. Especially you, sports columnist who has the hot sports take that Harvey needs to grow up.
Unfortunately, this is the world we live in. It’s all too easy to get outraged and offended by everything under the sun, so PR departments are sent into overdrive to protect their “brand” and “image.” The hysteria over fear of offending somebody naturally leads to overreactions and stepping on eggshells. Surely there’s a middle ground on Twitter where athletes and personalities can be themselves between being nothing more than a running sponsor’s announcement and Jason Whitlock’s ethnic humor.
Surely social media can allow for that grey area, surely we as a society and a sports fandom can accept that grey area where athletes don’t always have to be carefully managed, but can be themselves. That’s supposed to be the great thing about Twitter and social media, isn’t it? That the walls between average, everyday people and famous athletes or celebrities are broken down. If those walls are put back up by overly scrupulous PR departments and @MattHarvey33 becomes nothing more than the Mets’ carefully manufactured image of Matt Harvey, then what’s the point?