The White Sox’s silence on protests grows louder by the day

Jerry Reinsdorf is all but invisible to fans. He only addresses local media when it comes to universally good news. Anything more nuanced than “I’m happy Harold Baines made the Hall of Fame” he saves for an alma mater or Bob Nightengale, but even those interviews are few and far between. Expecting more is a fool’s errand.

When it comes to the George Floyd protests sweeping the nation, it’s not surprising that he and the White Sox have largely removed themselves from the discourse, but it’s disappointing. The club’s only official acknowledgment of the protests is this flaccid statement that offers no sense of place or time.

There’s no mention of George Floyd dying at the hands of police, much less the deaths of Breonna Taylor or Ahmaud Arbery, the two other recent high-profile cases of police brutality and extrajudicial killings that have inspired the nationwide unrest. That image could have been deployed at any moment of tension over the last decade, or maybe just the third Monday of any January.

The team’s next statement took the form of Rick Renteria wishing Guaranteed Rate a happy birthday. Because he mentioned “20th birthday,” one can at least know what year it was said.

The Cubs issued a more thorough statement in support of African-Americans. Gushers beat them both, and Gushers is a fruit snack.

On one hand, the White Sox’s silence has been baffling. Diversity is a big part of the White Sox’s identity and pride. The crowds at 35th and Shields are notably different from those across town. White Sox Charities gets out into the neighborhoods. The club’s Amateur City Elite program should be worthy of emulation by every MLB franchise, and it’ll get another round of plaudits when some team drafts Ed Howard on Wednesday. Its executive vice president is Kenny Williams, who often has to speak about institutionalized racism from his role of one of the only African-American executives in the game. He spoke about it just late last month after the death of Bob Watson:

“One thing Bob and I talked about pretty regularly was the need for us to succeed in our roles, thinking that our success in those roles would have people look at us in a different way and maybe take a chance on the next guy who looked like us. For a while that looked like it may be the case, but it hasn’t turned out that way.”

The team’s logo carries weight beyond baseball thanks to African-American arts. I’ve seen White Sox caps for sale among unrelated items on the shelves of urban streetwear stores in Seoul, Paris and Reykjavik thanks to hip-hop’s propulsion, not because Paul Konerko is huge in Iceland.

Culturally, the White Sox don’t have much reason to be timid.

Geographically, it’s a different story.

* * * * * * * * *

You know what is also a big part of the White Sox? Police. Granted, they’re a big part of every team, in that current and former police often comprise stadium security. For instance, it might’ve seemed like a no-brainer for the University of Minnesota to end its contracts with the Minneapolis Police Department in the wake of George Floyd’s killing, but the school took on significant risk in doing so.

But the White Sox have stronger natural ties still. Bridgeport is long considered the seat of Chicago authorities — cops, firefighters and Daleys. There’s a police precinct on 35th Street just a couple of blocks away. The White Sox host a game between police and fire departments every year.

The neighborhood’s history with African-Americans is not a welcoming one. Before the Dan Ryan was the backdrop for new Comiskey Park, it served as a physical barrier between Armour Square/Bridgeport and largely black Bronzeville by design. While the neighborhood demographics have changed over the last couple of decades, African-Americans are still a distinct minority, and reminders of the area’s uglier history have flared up during the protests.

This Block Club Chicago article includes white vigilante action at 31st and Princeton, and another incident 26th and Shields. This Chicago Tribune article references the former, and adds another scene on West Pershing Road.

And in the middle of that map, Guaranteed Rate Field was a staging ground for the Illinois National Guard.

That image isn’t as shocking as it could be, just like Tim Anderson wearing a Sox jacket alongside “ACAB” graffiti has a certain historical resonance that other teams don’t possess.

* * * * * * * * *

These two major facets of the White Sox’s identity are in direct and open conflict, and the organization is acting as though it’d rather not pick a side. It fits right in with Reinsdorf’s history of political donations. It’s also a decision that looks far more cynical than pragmatic as the protests gain traction in ways and areas that few thought possible. Moore’s reference to Bridgeport as a sunset neighborhood came to mind when seeing this Black Lives Matter protest from a notorious Texas sundown town:

If you only want to compare it to athletics, the University of Minnesota’s decision to sever security ties looks less risky now that the city council is moving to dismantle the police department. One NFL employee went rogue and worked with players to create a viral video demanding a stronger league action, and Roger Goodell responded by recording a video in which he supported Black Lives Matter and admitted the league’s previous stance on peaceful protests was a mistake. The CrossFit world is crumbling. Hell, Major League Baseball’s tepid statement was even lapped by NASCAR of all sports.

The longer this goes on, the more the White Sox’s absence of courage stands out. They’re almost lucky that fans won’t be able to attend games in 2020, because who knows what direction that diverse gathering of thousands at the ballpark would take (Aug. 27 would’ve been this year’s edition of the annual Police & Fire Night).

But I don’t think you can separate the protests from the coronavirus. The pandemic has disproportionately affected African-Americans in terms of the virus’ death toll, its economic impact, and even their ability to vote. It all works in concert to show that there’s a raw deal for black people in the United States around every corner, which helps explain why Floyd’s death broke the seal on an unfathomable amount of anger. That police around the country responded with that toxic combination of recorded excessive force and debunkable lies made that anger easier than ever for white people to comprehend.

Some members of the White Sox, like Anderson and Lucas Giolito, have taken it all in and feel compelled to speak out. The White Sox really aren’t providing them cover. At best, it can be seen as hoping it all goes away. At worst … are the Sox just waiting to side with the winner?

The White Sox probably don’t see themselves that callously, but clinging to the status quo can always be defended in real time. Those real-time decisions also tend to embarrass institutions in hindsight. The White Sox can comfortably quote Martin Luther King Jr. as a quick salve now, but they probably won’t want to relay what King said about Chicago in 1966, even if those quotes are equally relevant as groups of mostly white men with bats roam the streets near where the White Sox play.

Acting for justice is a lot less safe at the time it has a chance to make a difference. Parts of the White Sox have it in them to lead, but that just makes it harder to excuse the other parts of the White Sox that hold them back.

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Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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In my opinion, actions speak louder than words. I’m unconcerned what the Sox or any brand tweet. It feels, to me, like a pro forma obligation that brands have accepted, but unless they change their behavior it won’t matter when the protests die down. Rather than a tweet from Target, I’d like to see them commit to reopening their store on 119th (they can’t because BCBS already moved in, but something like that). Rather than a tweet from Jewel, I’d like to see them accelerate 3rd-party development of their abandoned store on 115th. Rather than a tweet from Gushers, I’d like to see them (or, better yet, their parent companies Betty Crocker and General Mills) commit to supporting INVEST South/West with local manufacturing, packaging, or distribution centers. Rather than a tweet from the White Sox, I’d like to know that Jerry is working his former professional and political contacts to make property taxes more fair throughout the city, that he’s convincing Guaranteed Rate to provide low-interest mortgages to those making below the area median income, and that he’s expanding his previous commitments to the Sox Academy and the like. Maybe a tweet is a nice first step, but whether it mentions George Floyd or not is irrelevant if the business community doesn’t put their money where their mouth is.


Nice article Jim


Excellent, Jim, and thank you for referencing the Marquette Park demonstrations. The ways Dr. King and the SCLC were treated and seen before April 1968 echo in the smearing of Black Lives Matter with police murders.

Jerry Reinsdorf has made a lot of money from his business dealings on the South and West sides. What responsibilities does he have to the people who live and die in the neighborhoods that have made him so rich?


Wonderful piece, Jim.


Poignant and pointed criticism. Proud to be associated with this place.

As an aside, I haven’t had Gushers in 20 years and now it’s all I crave to eat.


Thanks for this, Jim.
I am disappointed but not surprised by the team’s lack of response. I am not white (I’m Asian, and fairly dark skinned) and have always noticed that the team’s fan base skews very heavily white. It’s easy to poke fun at the homogeneity of Cubs fans, but truth is that Sox games didn’t feel any different when I lived in Chicago. Sadly, I suspect that the typical Sox fan would react negatively to a strong anti-racist message, and Reinsdorf knows it. This despite the franchise having had many prominent black and Latin players and one of the few black executives in baseball.

Lurker Laura

There is usually a strong Latinx contingent at Sox Park. Agree not as many Black people as in the past. When I look at my family’s pictures from the 70s and 80s, it was much more diverse crowd.


I have been to MLB games in 16 or 17 cities outside of Chicago. I am also a Bears season ticket holder and former Blackhawks season ticket holder. I have been to a handful of NFL and NHL games outside of Chicago. You can go to games in Detroit, Baltimore, Cleveland, Cincinnati, DC and many others with large non white populations and the crowds look very similar. Very few black attendees at pro sporting events. Dodger stadium the times I have been there typically has a large Latino crowd. Otherwise the stands look similar from city to city.


Unfortunately these days I think just about every team’s crowd skews heavily white, it’s just where baseball’s fandom numbers have gone? Baseball hasn’t exactly been welcoming or easy to get into for black kids. ACE is a great program, but it can only do so much. Sox crowds are more diverse than most I think from when I’ve popped into other stadiums.

There’s definitely a significant contingent of white fans that would probably be pissed off at the team making a statement. But this is a team lead by several Cubans, Tim Anderson and Giolito, if you’re not on board with a diverse team that makes statements about major and blindingly evident social problems, those folks can always root for, I don’t know, one of those Italian soccer clubs with fascist supporters or something?


I think we are underestimating the intelligence of most Sox fans in favor of the stereotype. I think a firm statement in support of BLM would be hugely popular with most Sox fans. Maybe I’m wrong and just momentarily inspired by the NASCAR video.


Mayor Lightfoot’s advice to call 911 if you’re worried about what you see in Bridgeport seems like the sort of thing you just say as a reflex after working in politics for long enough.

Greg Nix

I’ve been absolutely stunned at the failure in local leadership in major cities to adequately gauge respond to the protests. NY, LA, and Chicago have all been abysmal.


Her comments were disgusting. The reactions to the riots and looting was overall disgusting. In the article below there is audio of a conference call between Lightfoot and the aldermen.

Greg Nix

Well said.


Call me a dreamer or whatever but maybe the Sox felt like they did not have to put out anything more then the standard tweet everybody else does considering what they have been doing in the minority communities and its history with various cuban players. They let their players speak their mind while they do what they can with charities and the ACE program.

Obviously there is some shady histories there that cant be ignored but really how many teams that have been around as long as the Sox have been clean of stuff like that?

Of course im trying to give Jerry some credit when he really doesn’t deserve any. Perhaps ive just gotten a bit cynical at all these teams/companies just now tweeting BLM stuff and donating to charities when they could’ve been doing things in the past before all this happened. Just comes off as “Oh we have to do this now so it looks like we care to save face.”


I frankly don’t see the need. The last thing I want associated with the protests is empty and cynical words posted on social media by big companies and brands who pay lip service to look good and then go on ignoring any social inequality till the next crisis rolls around.


At one point would a statement be viewed as something other than just CYA by the Sox though? It feels like they’ve waited too long to make an impactful statement like Gushers (never thought I’d type that phrase) so now anything they put out there would feel hollow and essentially checking a box.

Josh Nelson

By May 26th, Chicago in 2020 is outpacing 2019. This date was prior to the protesting and looting.

The gun violence is one thing the White Sox did coordinate efforts on.

Shingos Cheeseburgers

Do the Sox own the lots around GRF? They don’t outright own the stadium (right?) so if the lots are owned by the state the Sox might not have a say in how they’re used during the off-season.

I work under the assumption that all security guards at Sox games are off duty CPD so they’re trying to walk the line between saying the right thing so it looks like they aren’t tone deaf and not causing a mass walk out of game day staff (not that it would matter this year).


I’m obviously not saying anything new here, but what a strange state of affairs when you’re afraid to tell your employees, “Hey, at your other job? Maybe don’t do literal evil or cover for others who do.”

Those who find that unreasonable may choose not to work here anymore! What ever will we do?!


We make people sign something that says they can be fired for forwarding work emails to their Gmail.

lil jimmy

I worked at the park for three years. It was the most diverse workforce I have ever been part of. There was a macho vibe to the place though.


I think the silence- from individuals and from organizations- has been deafening in these last few weeks. It’s awful to see how many people and companies are choosing money over humanity. In the end, they’ll lose both.


Having lived been born, worked and owned property in the Chicago for over 44 (and I mean in the city not the suburbs) I have never and I mean never seen organized looting and destruction that has been unleashed on my city like the catastrophe that has just occurred. On the whole city but the most pernicious in the largely white and black working class areas of Chicago ,Evergreen park ,North Riverside Cicero etc . This city will not turn into Detroit or Baltimore but it will take a decade for it to recover and some areas of the South and west sides may take a generation to recover. The hundreds of business were destroyed and thousands were left unemployed. Many times the cops and fire department were actively blocked by not only the mobs but also their own superiors from the mayor on down because of a reluctance to listen to their street officers. People who live hundreds if not thousands of miles away and have never lived in this city might be cautious in their criticisms of the Sox response and their assessment of the Chicago populace’s reaction . From my view as life long Chicagoan who was sicken by this literal sack of the city ,the Sox’s reaction was down the middle and correct and the the only one they could have given considering the trauma all real residents of the city have to endure for 6 straight days


Six whole days. Can you imagine living like that? It’s the sort of thing that might make you angry.