SANTA CLARA, Calif. — The San Francisco 49ers publicly condemned the person who sent racist messages to Arizona Cardinals safety Budda Baker and announced that they have begun an investigation into identifying the fan.
Baker took to Twitter on Monday afternoon to share screenshots of direct messages he received on Instagram from someone who harassed him with a variety of racial slurs. Along with screenshots of the messages, Baker wrote “I’m all good with opposing fans talking trash but this right here man. All you can do is pray for people like this.”
The Niners issued a statement on Tuesday afternoon, condemning the person who sent the messages and making it clear they would no longer be welcome at 49ers games or events.
“The San Francisco 49ers unequivocally denounce the racist messages sent to Budda Baker. The individual who sent the messages does not represent the 49ers or the Faithful. Per team policy, we are working to identify this person and will ban them from all 49ers games and events.
“Incidents like this demonstrate how much work remains to be done to address racism and hate in our society. We remain steadfast in our commitment to that work.”
Niners chief executive officer Jed York echoed that message via Twitter, writing, “Sadly, these incidents occur far too often. Permitting these individuals to go unchecked allows racism and hate to spread. I urge other teams in the world of sport to consider our policy of banning those who seek to tear others down with racial slurs and threats of violence.”
The person in question seemed to be blaming Baker for Niners tight end George Kittle‘s sprained left knee. Baker delivered a hit to Kittle’s legs on a ball thrown too high by quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo late in the second quarter of Arizona’s 24-20 win against the Niners on Sunday. The fan accused Baker of trying to go after Kittle’s knees.
After missing a snap, Kittle returned and finished the game. He defended Baker on Tuesday afternoon, posting a photo of himself and Baker in game action with the caption “Nothing but respect 32 [Baker’s jersey number]! See you down the road.” Baker responded to Kittle’s post with “Always Respect Bro.”
Kittle and Baker, who both entered the league in 2017, have had a series of hotly contested matchups over the past few seasons, but Kittle said last week that he and Baker have enjoyed a friendly rivalry and even were among the first to text each other when each received a lucrative contract extension before the season.
“We have a mutual respect for each other,” Kittle said last Thursday. “Budda is a hell of a football player. … I love watching Budda play. He’s a monster. He’s all over the field. … We compete at a very high level, we have a lot of intensity, and we both love the game of football. What more do you want in a matchup?”