An athlete rocked by a scandal or a major misstep in his life has a template he can follow when returning to the field of play.
He can express remorse for what he did, promise to do better, graciously accept that some fans aren’t going to be in a forgiving mood, and slowly play his way into the good graces of the hometown faithful again. A few home runs or touchdowns or slam dunks, some charity work, all the right things said in the media, and eventually fans forget all about whatever got the athlete in trouble in the first place.
Or, instead, he can whine about having to face the consequences of his actions.
Addison Russell of the Chicago Cubs is back from a domestic violence suspension, and he seems to be choosing the second approach, being confrontational with fans and acting like a Boy Scout who can’t understand why he’s getting booed.
Referring to the chorus of boos he received at Wrigley Field on Wednesday, Russell was unrepentant and defiant, displaying the attitude of a toddler in the throes of the “terrible twos.”
“I’m a baseball player for the Chicago Cubs,” he said, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. “I’m one of the dudes in this clubhouse. I’m one of the guys who goes out there and puts his [body] on the line. We do it because we love it. We want to win, and we want to bring another championship to Chicago.
“And if hometown fans want to boo someone that’s trying to help bring the team a World Series again, then that’s on them.”
Not a word of remorse.
Just, in essence, “I did this time that Major League Baseball made me do and now I’m back and you should all love me.”
Russell is on a “social media fast,” which is one of the better euphemisms yet devised for hiding in a bubble because he can’t handle what those mean old baseball fans are saying about him.
He even threw his own generation under the bus.
“The thing about being a millennial, we’re kind of drawn into the new-age stuff,” he said. “Maybe it’ll be a couple of days, a couple of weeks. I can’t say when the good time is to hop back on. But it’s been good for me and for my family. The vibe I put out is the vibe my family receives and my friends and teammates receive — and it’s not going to be altered by a troll or an angry beat writer or something like that.”
As Sun-Times beat writer Steve Greenberg put it in his piece, “What about a troll and an angry writer? Some of us like to think we can be both at the same time.”
There is a certain tendency among athletes in today’s sports media landscape to just call anyone who dares hold them accountable “haters,” and Russell has leaned into that so far that it threatens to collapse under his body weight.
His actions and attitude are going to make him one of the most hated players in the game.
“Fans are going to feel whatever they want to feel,” Russell said. “For me, there’s no hard feelings about that. Everyone’s entitled to what they say and what they want to do, whatever. I get it. I definitely get it. But, at the end of the day, I’m here.”
And at the end of the day, he’s an example of what not to do if your goal is to repair your image.
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