Update: A previous version of this post referred to the Proud Boys as a “white supremacist group.” The organization reached out to Awful Announcing clarifying that its members are not white supremacists but merely people who “believe that the West is the best.” You may interpret that how you wish.
Texas Rangers television analyst C.J. Nitkowski deleted some tweets and locked his Twitter account Monday after being called out for liking a photo from posted by a controversial Twitter account.
The drama began Friday when a Twitter user named Mike Taddow shared a screen shot of Nitkowski liking an image of the U.S. women’s hockey team that highlighted a player making a gesture that represents both an innocent game and but also has been reported to be a hand signal also used by the alt-right (although the ADL disputes that assertion). The account that posted the photo, which Nitkowski followed, belonged to the Proud Boys, an organization categorized by the SPLC as a hate group.
here he is liking content from an alt-right group that doesn’t even have the balls to call themselves what they really are. pic.twitter.com/duvydK0C5e
— mike taddow (@taddmike) February 24, 2018
As Nitkowski fielded criticism from Twitter users, the former pitcher declined to apologize for following The Proud Boys or for liking their tweet. Instead, he doubled down.
And he followed not just liked pic.twitter.com/NRq1Kh44Kb
— Tellito (@TellStevens) February 24, 2018
As anger on Twitter intensified, Nitkowski told the Dallas Observer that he saw nothing wrong with the tweet he had liked or the account he followed.
“There is no tweet controversy,” Nitkowski told the Observer. “I didn’t tweet anything. There was nothing controversial about the picture that I liked. It was funny. The insinuation that the sign the women’s hockey player flashed was anything but a game that athletes play is absurd. I don’t thoroughly vet the [more than] 900 accounts that I follow, nor do I feel any of us are responsible to do so.
“I have never seen anything from that account that suggested they were a hate group. If I did, I wouldn’t follow them or any account. If a group wants to label a Twitter account a hate group, they can certainly do that, but their opinion means nothing to me. I think for myself. The idea that anyone would get upset over a tweet liked by someone they don’t know is now the most ludicrous thing Twitter has to offer us.”
Nitkowski then reportedly deleted some of his tweets and locked his account.
This is not the first time Nitkowski has found himself embroiled in a Twitter controversy, nor the first time he has seemingly exacerbated a tense situation. The longtime commentator has taken heat over the years for everything from trolling statheads to telling off people who object to sexist hazing to defending Jonathan Papelbon after the closer choked a teammate. Last summer, Nitkowski was called out for an innocuous error in a tweet, then spent the next hour berating and blocking people who corrected him.
Nitkowski told SportsDay that he will now take a break from Twitter, at least for a few weeks, because the site is too “tense.”
Nitkowski said he deleted the Twitter app off both his phone and iPad. He intends to stay off social media indefinitely, though he said he might be back by opening day.
“It can be a really tense place for some people,” he said. “I prefer it not be. I want it to be cordial and informative and a place where we can exchange opinions. The struggle I have is that I have to protect my reputation over a tweet that I liked. When I was made aware, I gladly unfollowed. I’m just disappointed in how some people reacted to it.”
Per the Observer, the Rangers have talked to Nitkowski about being “more careful on social media.”
John Blake, executive vice president of communications for the Rangers, responded with the following comment: “I have discussed this situation with CJ Nitkowski over the last few days. He told me he wasn’t aware of that reputation of that account and was just liking a photo of the women’s hockey team. He told me it was an honest mistake and he was not trying to offend anyone. I told him that the Rangers really expect him to be more careful on social media and he needs to take the necessary steps to make sure this happens. He assured me that he would do so.”)
We will see whether Nitkowski heeds the team’s advice or returns to his controversy-stirring ways.