In the public sphere, the single worst thing you can say about someone is that he's a racist. The second-worst thing you can say about someone is that he said something racist. Now, reasonable men might disagree about what that means, but essentially it's a pretty broad category: If you can imagine a racist saying it, then it's a racist saying.
Anyway, that's all probably unnecessary background for this week's mini-controversy involving Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips and Pirates relief pitcher Jared Hughes. It began like this, Monday night:
After the game, Brandon Phillips fired off a tweet:
What happened next?
First, we learned that Phillips thought Hughes used the word "boy" in an inappropriate way.
Next, Andrew McCutchen got Phillips and Hughes together on the telephone, and the the two players got along famously. They respect one another as players, heat of the moment, etc. Move along folks, nothing to see here.
Except for Brandon Phillips, who after the rapprochement still maintained that yes, Hughes really did say something that one can imagine only a racist saying. To which Hughes replied with an official statement saying no, he did not say something like that; he merely swore, as players often do.
So that's where we're at. Phillips says Hughes said something racists say, but it's fine. Which isn't how Hughes wants to leave things. Which you can understand.