DETROIT — Racially insensitive and homophobic tweets that Michael Kopech made as a 17-year-old five years ago shouldn’t cause any issues in the White Sox’ clubhouse, his teammates said Friday.
Speaking to the Sun-Times on Thursday, Kopech, the Sox’ prized pitching prospect who made his major-league debut Tuesday in Chicago, addressed tweets that he had deleted but that resurfaced in recent days. He expanded on his regret before the Sox played the Tigers at Comerica Park on Friday.
“Everything is good,” said shortstop Tim Anderson, the only African-American player on the Sox’ 25-man roster. “We all make mistakes when we’re younger, so I don’t think that affects who we are today. He apologized, so there is no bad blood between us. He’s a great person, good teammate. It’s something you have to learn from.”
Kopech, 22, said he wanted to emphasize he is not racist and never has been. His girlfriend, actress Vanessa Morgan, is biracial.
“First of all, I had no right saying what I said, and I want to apologize for being stupid and an immature teenager,’’ Kopech said Friday. “I think maybe a misinterpretation [Thursday] is I was apologizing for maybe being racist or homophobic in the past, and I wasn’t apologizing for that — I was apologizing for what I said because I’ve never been racist or homophobic. Unfortunately for my girlfriend and my family, I have my girlfriend in the spotlight, as well. The last thing I want is to cause embarrassment to her.”
“I have a 10-year-old black nephew that in a few years is going to be part of the crazy social-media world, and the last thing I want him to see is that his uncle may have been racist or offensive at one point. That really sits heavy with me. I made some mistakes. I didn’t mean any of the things I said. There were jokes made in poor taste with my friends, but it’s not language I continue to use. I am going to continue to try and be a role model for younger kids.”
Kopech said Morgan was understanding “because I was young and stupid, and she doesn’t hold any of that against me.”
Pitcher Lucas Giolito said Kopech’s teammates stand behind him.
“He is a very good person,” Giolito said. “Collectively, as a team, we recognize that he used poor language on Twitter when he was in high school. I had a conversation about it with him [Thursday], and the main thing for me is that he recognizes that using that type of language can be very disparaging to the groups of people it goes against. Obviously, he doesn’t hold any of those beliefs — he never held any of those beliefs. And knowing his family history, that’s just not how he was raised. He’s made that very clear to all of us, and so we support him as he kind of goes through this mess.”
Added utilityman Nicky Delmonico: “We all do things. It happened awhile ago. He confronted everything, owned up to everything. So you move forward. Everything is good.’’
Delmonico and Giolito said it was another reminder to be careful and use discretion in the social media age.
“The way social media is now, we’re all under a microscope,” Giolito said, “not just for what we do on the field, but the way we carry ourselves off the field. It’s very important to be professional and respectful to all groups of people.”
Kopech again appeared contrite, his voice cracking slightly at times.
“I try to be the best teammate I can be. I don’t want to offend anyone in the clubhouse,” he said. “I don’t want to offend anyone at all. But I said it, and I have to own up to that. I messed up, and I’m not going to continue to use language like that, and I should have never done it in the first place.”
Kopech joined Josh Hader, Sean Newcomb and Trea Turner among players who have recently faced backlash for racist or homophobic tweets.
“We need to clean it up, we need to be better, and I specifically need to be better,” Kopech said. “And I’m going to.”