What was in the running for feel-good story of the year has turned into a complicated, layered mess that will make you evaluate everything about how we live right now.
So, pretty much like everything that’s happened in 2019.
But still, this one is special. To recap: Iowa State was the on-campus site of ESPN’s College GameDay on Sept. 14 before the Cyclones played rival Iowa.
Carson King, an Iowa State fan, held up a sign that said his Busch Light supply needed to be replenished and included his Venmo account information for people to send him money. And … people took him seriously — so seriously that more than $1 million has poured into his account.
King decided he would donate the money to a children’s hospital in Iowa. Busch Light said they would give him free beer for a year. The story became a viral sensation, and everyone was happy.
Until … the Des Moines Register, in the course of doing a longer story about King, discovered that in 2012 — when he was 16 — he had a pair of racist posts on Twitter.
The paper decided to include that information in the story. King was contrite and embarrassed about it, telling the paper: “That’s not something that I’m proud of at all.”
The Register put out a lengthy explanation on why it decided to publish the information about the tweets, but the paper was feeling plenty of heat for its decision.
Adding to the complicated story: the reporter who wrote the story on King has his own unsavory Twitter history and has started deleting tweets.
The good news in all this is that the children’s hospital is still going to get its big donation.
King isn’t getting his beer. And nobody quite knows how to feel, including me. I’m left, I guess, with a mixed bag of thoughts:
*Should everything we put on social media be fair game as part of our permanent record? Probably not, though it’s hard to ignore things that exist in writing. The fact that King was 16 and still in high school at the time makes it even tougher to reconcile. If a juvenile criminal record can be wiped away at a point after someone turns 18, is it fair to still be held accountable for something on Twitter.
*”I’m glad I didn’t have Twitter when I was 16″ is true, but doesn’t excuse a racist tweet. That said, going back and digging up a tweet from 7 years ago is highly questionable. If you find it and ignore it, though, are you doing readers a disservice by offering an incomplete picture of a subject?
*King seems to be handling this about as well as he can. “I cannot go back and change what I posted when I was a 16-year-old,” he said in a statement. “I can apologize and work to improve every day and make a meaningful difference in people’s lives.”
*If you think King was done a disservice by having his tweets reported on initially, does it simply serve to perpetuate that disservice by writing about it again here? Ultimately, I decided the full-picture discussion was one worth having because — as noted early — it absolutely has to do with how we’re living in 2019.