To Jose Altuve and the Astros: I'm sorry I assumed the worst

I assumed Jose Altuve's relative lack of happy expressions at the White House celebration this week meant something. I was wrong, and I’m sorry I jumped to that conclusion.

I wrote a column earlier this week that pre-supposed Jose Altuve did not want to be at the White House as President Donald Trump honored the Astros for their World Series championship.

I based the column on Altuve’s facial expressions, or, rather, the lack of them at what is normally a genial and light-hearted affair. I interpreted his stern expression through much of the ceremony to mean that he was uncomfortable, that he was silently seething at Trump and his policies. Normally, Altuve’s bubbly personality is always on display. I assumed the relative lack of it at the White House celebration meant something.

But I was wrong, and I’m sorry I jumped to that conclusion.

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“The president was talking," Altuve told reporters Tuesday. "What do you want me to do? I was just standing there listening. It was an honor to be there. If I didn’t want to go, I just wouldn’t go."

He continued: "I’m [standing] behind the president, probably one of the most important guys in the world. I can’t be laughing or doing stupid things while he’s talking. I need to listen.”

Altuve took to Twitter on Tuesday to humorously suggest we shouldn't look too much into his facial expressions. As someone told me on Twitter, "Altuve just owned you." I can't disagree.

I’ll admit: I bought into the narrative that most professional athletes — or, at least, most pro athletes of color — wouldn’t want to visit the White House because of Trump administration policies that many see as racist or intolerant. While it’s true that other pro athletes have made such public pronouncements, I shouldn’t have assumed that was the case with Altuve.

“I think context is a very difficult thing for people to understand and you can create your own narrative, which unfortunately in this day and age can be easily done with screen shots and assumptions,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. “I think it’s unfortunate that it ever got to a point where we automatically assume the negative without giving one of the best human beings on our team the benefit of the doubt."

Yes, I assumed the negative based on a popular narrative. I was wrong, and I’m sorry. It’s a valuable and humbling lesson. Some might think that my assumption about Altuve wasn't a big deal, given the current social climate. But it is a big deal. As journalists, we're not supposed to put words into someone's mouth — or, in this case, thoughts in their head. My column put thoughts in Altuve's head, and it shouldn't have happened.

A lot of people already don't like or trust the news media. They accuse us of pushing false narratives and fake news. I wish I hadn't contributed to that distrust. I hope it never happens again.

I've always tried to use my mistakes to learn and make myself better. This is an opportunity to learn yet again.