Cardinals Fans Go Full Donald Trump On Dexter Fowler

We regret to inform you that the best fans in baseball are back at it again

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Feb 21, 2017 at 12:56 PM ET

New St. Louis Cardinals centerfielder Dexter Fowler, an African-American whose wife is Iranian, told ESPN this weekend that his family nixed a trip to take their three-year-old daughter to see his in-laws in Iran. Why? Fowler cited President Donald Trump’s travel ban targeting seven predominantly Muslim countries, Iran included, as the chief reason.

Fowler, who left the Cardinals’ arch-rival Chicago Cubs this winter, also said, “It’s huge. Especially any time you’re unable to see family, it’s unfortunate.”

In the realm of controversial comments, this was not one of them. His family was directly affected by a national policy (since blocked by a federal court), and he called that “unfortunate.” Fair enough given that any perfectly reasonable human could say far worse about the President’s illogical and bigoted attempt at foreign policy.

Such diplomacy, however, did not stop a torrent of social-media hatred from pouring into a Cardinals fan Facebook page and Fowler’s Twitter account. A sampling of the vitriolic sentiment (all “[sic]” notations implied):

“Stay out of politics! Don’t make me quit watching my favorite team because I don’t want to hear it!”
“Maybe he should have resigned with the cubs.Hillary won Illinois but Trump won Missouri by nearly a 2-1 margin landslide. His anti-trump talk is not going to make him a lot of fans in the state of Missouri unless he plays fantastic baseball.”
“Who cares what he thinks. He is ‘over paid’ to play ball, not to think.”
“tell him if he is a TRUE cardinals player he will respect the President , our Flag & Our National Anthem”
“You’re with the Cardinals as*h$#%. Regardless of the second rate team you came from… we don’t tolerate this bu$*s#*t!!”
“I knew he was going to shame the cardinals uniform”
“Send the dumb ass back to where they got him we don’t need him or any one else like him Get rid of him all ready acting stupid don’t need him in St. Louis”
“Don’t want you in saint Louis” and “Go back where you came from” [Note: Fowler was born in Atlanta.]

Well, then. A vocal segment of the fan base—the self-proclaimed Best Fans in Baseball—has again shown its ugly side, most visibly on display during the 2014 playoffs. That coincided with the peak of demonstrations against white police officer Darren Wilson, who shot and killed an unarmed Michael Brown, an African-American teenager. When protesters gathered near Busch Stadium, Cardinals fans hurled a slew of horrendously racist comments at them. (There was video evidence that has since been deleted, but many of the offenses have been documented.) Oh, and a segment of the fan base began marketing Darren Wilson Cardinals t-shirts.

That was the most high-profile example of a loud segment of Cardinals fans waving the flag of racism proudly, but many such incidents have been cataloged over the years by the Twitter account, @BestFansStLouis. Sports on Earth’s Will Leitch, a passionate Cardinals fan himself, admitted an uncomfortable truth: “…it is also increasingly difficult to ignore that the Cardinals have too many fans like that.”

Yahoo Sports columnist Jeff Passan took the topic a step further when noting that some Cardinals fans have a very particular ideal of what players on their favorite team should act like.

A Cardinal is scrappy. A Cardinal is a fighter. A Cardinal plays the game the right way, which they especially appreciate when his hustle makes up for a comparative lack of physical gifts. A Cardinal is David Eckstein and Stubby Clapp and Bo Hart.

A Cardinal is also white.

This is an uncomfortable truth for Cardinals diehards who cringe at the segment of the fan base that disparages Fowler. To shrug this off as just a few bad apples undersells the undercurrent of intolerance that exists. Other fan bases suffer similar maladies. The Cardinals’ just happens to be louder. And what’s worst, what’s most revolting, is when the guiltiest try to use fandom of [Lou] Brock and Bob Gibson to indemnify themselves from their words and actions when the truth is those words and actions would make Brock and Gibson sick.

There are all kinds of theories as to the historical demographics of St. Louis and the Cardinals’ regional appeal underpinning why this phenomenon exists for this franchise more so than others—and, let’s be clear, it does exist for all 30 teams. It just feels more pronounced or at least gets noticed more often with the Cardinals, perhaps because the chest-beating “Best Fans” contingent elicits detractors in spades.

However, the purported origin story does not matter, and social-media posts are not representative of an entire fan base. What is relevant is that a baseball player—who, incidentally, happens to be eminently likable, ebullient, and thoughtful—is subject to such abuse for voicing his displeasure over an executive order that is plainly unconstitutional.