A Detroit Free Press reported has been subjected to intense backlash on social media after criticizing new Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell for an anti-gay remark he made more than 20 years ago.
On January 15, Marlowe Alter published an article highlighting anti-gay comments Campbell made at a pep rally for Texas A&M in 1998.
Campbell told an audience of 40,000 people that he was proud to attend a university where “men like women and women like men.”
It provoked outcry at the time, with Eric W. Trekell — then-spokesman for LGBTQ organization Texas A&M Allies — writing to the school’s president, “I suffered the pain of listening to a football player tell me that A&M is NOT my university.”
Campbell published an apology the following week, writing, “I offended some people, and I’m sorry for that. It was heat of the moment. It’s not necessarily that I directed it at anyone.”
However, Campbell’s past comments were quickly sidelined after tweets by Alter containing racist and homophobic language were unearthed.
“@freepsports does a smear job piece to try getting someone cancelled,” conservative author Mike Cernovich tweeted on Jan. 16. “The ‘reporter’ who wrote the piece has years of racist and homophobic tweets.”
The tweets, which were sent between 2011 and 2012, show Alter repeatedly using the anti-gay slur “fag,” as well as a racist slur for Black people.
Alter responded to the controversy on Jan. 16, tweeting, “I apologize for the unacceptable tweets from my past. There is no excuse for the language I used, and I’m embarrassed.”
He continued: “I do not condone that language. I’m sorry to anyone I have offended and deeply regret my actions.”
I apologize for the unacceptable tweets from my past. There is no excuse for the language I used and I'm embarrassed. I do not condone that language. I’m sorry to anyone I have offended and deeply regret my actions.
— Marlowe Alter (@MarloweAlter) January 16, 2021
His apology failed to make an impact with some Twitter users, with one person responding, “Don’t apologize for your stupid tweets. Apologize to the guy who’s career you tried to destroy.”
Don’t apologize for your stupid tweets. Apologize to the guy who’s career you tried to destroy.
— JT Lewis (@thejtlewis) January 16, 2021
Another user noted the time disparity between Campbell’s anti-gay comment and Alter’s homophobic tweets.
“Why should we accept your apology for something you said 8 years ago but not somebody’s else apology for the same type of language almost 30 years ago?” they tweeted. “Your apology should include your hypocritical stance on Campbell…. try again.”
The entire incident raised questions about so-called “cancel culture,” with one person noting that by unearthing and republishing Campbell’s comments — only to have his own anti-gay past exposed — Alter had “to lay in the bed you made.”
“Wondering what was hoping to be gained by quickly publishing that piece solely based on reports of him being the front runner for the job,” another person wrote.
Do you also apologize for the hypocrisy of your article? More interested in your thoughts on apparently having a double standard for others. Wondering what was hoping to be gained by quickly publishing that piece solely based on reports of him being the front runner for the job.
— Alex Minch (@AJefferson13) January 16, 2021
Most don’t care about your tweets from forever ago. This should be a lesson to all, be careful of being pro-cancel culture when you don’t have a squeaky clean past. Now you get to lay in the bed you made.
— Kerwin (@Kerdaddy) January 16, 2021
A similar incident happened in 2019, when Des Moines Register reporter Aaron Calvin wrote an article about Carson King, a beloved local figure who had led a fundraising campaign for a local children’s hospital.
Calvin noted two racist tweets from King’s past, which led a sponsor of the fundraiser to drop King, only for critics to later unearth homophobic and racist tweets from Calvin’s own past, which culminated in Calvin being fired by the Register.
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