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  1. Opinion

A Twitter tiff hurts Tampa Bay Rays and Pinellas sheriff | Opinion

Both sides had far better ways to make their points.

An avoidable spat has bruised the reputation of two valuable players in the Tampa Bay area. The Tampa Bay Rays recently tweeted a call for the arrests of the Kentucky police officers who killed Breonna Taylor, the 26-year-old Black medical technician who was fatally shot March 13 by Louisville police officers who burst into her apartment using a no-knock search warrant. One officer has since been fired, the city has banned no-knock warrants and the FBI is investigating.

The Ray’s official Twitter account, @RaysBaseball, sent the tweet on opening day, July 24: “Today is Opening Day,” it read, “which means it’s a great day to arrest the killers of Breonna Taylor.” Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri found the tweet inflammatory and an overly broad rebuke of law enforcement, especially since many — him included — oppose no-knock warrants as too dangerous. He called Rays president Matt Silverman to complain. “To turn a baseball event into a political event is uncalled for,” Gualtieri later told the Tampa Bay Times.

The Rays, like many leading institutions throughout Tampa Bay, have lent their good name to many worthwhile causes over the years. But it’s one thing to express solidarity with the cause of racial justice. It’s another altogether to pop off about a charging decision in an individual case some 750 miles away — one that’s still under investigation and a flash point in the nationwide protests over police violence.

As for Gualtieri, his job is to enforce the law, not proctor political speech. The Rays’ tweet was out of place. But so was Gualtieri’s suggestion that the sheriff’s office might rethink off-duty jobs at Tropicana Field. The sheriff underscored Friday that the incident, though, would not affect the agency’s official relationship with the team.

Both sides can learning something from how St. Petersburg police Chief Anthony Holloway handled the situation. In a statement to the Times, Holloway said he also was “very concerned” about the tweet, disagreed with it and called the Rays for “a long discussion.” But he added: “This one ‘tweet’ will not impact our commitment as a professional agency to provide a secure environment for fans at future Rays games.” Holloway’s reasoned approach was a prime example of how to respond to a thoughtless remark.

Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Times Chairman and CEO Paul Tash, Editor of Editorials Graham Brink, and editorial writers Elizabeth Djinis, John Hill and Jim Verhulst. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news

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