WE ARE HEADED toward graduation season and the cavalcade of graduation speakers. If I were giving a graduation speech this year, I think an incident that played out in the Philadelphia area offers three life lessons.
In Act I, Joey Casselberry, a Bloomsburg University baseball player, tweets out an attack on Mo'ne Davis, the pitcher for the Taney Dragons Little League team. Mo'ne won the hearts of America with her performance in last year's Little League World Series.
Disney is going to do a film about her and this enraged Casselberry. He tweeted out: "Disney is making a movie about Mo'ne Davis? WHAT A JOKE. That slut got rocked by Nevada."
This tweet brings into play the first lesson about the damage that can be caused by stupid tweets. This tweet with the word slut was offensive and stupid. The damage to Casselberry was swift and significant. He was removed from the baseball team and his name was linked to a national story about sexism and racism. It will be connected to him forever.
Casselberry did tweet out an apology after his tweet started to get attention, but it was much too late. This guy's case is a very contemporary lesson, not just about social-media stupidity but also that the use of words like "slut" toward women, particularly young women, is not acceptable.
In Act II, Mo'ne Davis contacts Bloomsburg University officials and asks them to reconsider their punishment of the player. She told them: "While I admit I was pretty hurt when I read his comments, I felt sad that he was dismissed from the team . . . I am sure Joey Casselberry has worked very hard to get where he is and dreams of playing in the major leagues. For this reason, I'm asking you to please allow him back on the team so that he can continue to chase his dream. He made one dumb mistake. I'm sure he would go back and change it if he could."
Wow, she is 13. Most adults could not handle this as well. In fact, Lonnae O'Neal, a columnist for the Washington Post, used Mo'ne's grace under fire to say that we expect too much of young black girls. She says we have a willingness to see black girls as preternaturally immune to hurt.
This is just psychobabble. The lesson here is that Mo'ne is a great kid and showed a big heart. However, I think Bloomsburg was correct in sticking with its original penalty in keeping him off the team.
In Act III, Bloomsburg doesn't look so good. It was fine to make a clear point to Casselberry that his vulgar tweet had real consequences. However, I think that the lesson is that the college officials, as educators, are required to offer him a path to redemption. They must try to aid him in not having his name associated only with this horrible tweet.
Unfortunately, Bloomsburg is viewing this only as a public-relations problem and its desire to get distance from it. Isn't the university in the teaching business? Why is it avoiding this responsibility with Casselberry? Shouldn't the university be teaching him how he can (and must) learn from this terrible mistake?
I think the school can ask him to speak to other students about the dangers of stupidity and insensitivity on social media. The officials could have him do the grunt work on the baseball team, like picking up balls, bats, towels and equipment. They could have him work with youth groups in the area that may use the campus. I have seen none of this out of the university yet.
Since they haven't stepped up, my big idea is to hope the Taney Dragons ask him to help out with their team. He is from Montgomery County, and this would be a powerful story of redemption from a team that has already produced so many great moments.
Redemption is a thrilling process not only for the offender but for everyone who helps him along the way. I read with great interest Daily News reporter Barbara Laker's recent profile of former Philadelphia City Councilman Rick Mariano's difficult path to redemption. I regularly talk with Angelo Lutz, former Philadelphia mob associate, about his road to redemption in the restaurant business.
If someone recognizes the seriousness of his mistake, is willing to accept the consequences and is sincere in his desire to make amends, society should be willing to help in this process. So lesson three, to graduates and everyone else, is not only that everyone deserves a chance to recover, but that we must follow the example of Mo'ne Davis and affirmatively offer a path to redemption.