The schedule says the Chicago White Sox won’t play again until Friday evening against the Royals, and while about 51 hours will pass between their last pitch and their next one, it’s hard to say what the baseball landscape will look like by then.
Just as the White Sox wrapped up their victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday afternoon, the Milwaukee Bucks launched a wildcat strike, refusing to play their playoff game in the Orlando bubble as a way to protest the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and the additional shootings of protestors. The other teams on the NBA’s calendar followed, with LeBron James more vocal than anybody, and the league had no choice but to postpone the day’s slate.
It bled over to other sports, including baseball. The Milwaukee Brewers joined the Bucks in solidarity, and the Cincinnati Reds agreed to postpone, rather than accept the forfeit. The Mariners, who have more African-Americans than any other team in the league with 11, voted not to play, and the San Diego Padres supported their motion. The Dodgers and Giants released a joint statement in their decision to not play Wednesday night in San Francisco.
The teams that played on did so awkwardly. Jason Heyward gave his Cubs teammates his blessing to take the field against the Tigers without him, but Anthony Rizzo expressed his frustration with expletives to reporters afterward. Matt Kemp and the rest of the Rockies took the similar, separate actions. Dexter Fowler sat out of Wednesday’s Cardinals-Royals game, only joined by Jack Flaherty, who wasn’t starting that day. Dominic Smith was the only New York Met to kneel during the national anthem, and afterward told the media through tears that, “I think the most difficult part is to see that people still don’t care.”
The Dodgers and Giants are supposed to play a doubleheader today to make up the lost game, but I wonder if it’ll be as simple as skipping a day for a Los Angeles team when the Lakers and Clippers both voted to end the season, although the vote was described as a poll and not a formal motion. (The Los Angeles Angels were off Wednesday, with their game in Houston postponed by Hurricane Laura’s fresh hell.)
This is a tough moment for leagues, teams and players to simply dip a toe in now, if only because they’ve already done that as a collective unit to little effect after the killing of George Floyd. Major League Baseball stenciled “BLM” into mounds for Opening Day, and the logos of their regular sponsors immediately afterward …
… so every subsequent pause for solidarity or reflection or conversation becomes an increasingly rote acknowledgment. Like a half-staff flag on a non-holiday, it informs you that something tragic likely happened, but it’s on you to know or care enough to fill in the blanks. This risk of numbness was a concern of some NBA players before they resumed play, and so it explains why they’re taking more drastic action this time around. This chyron on the AP video of Smith’s conference call tells you how hard everything is right now.
I’m not sure Major League Baseball teams will follow the NBA’s lead step by step, given the vastly different demographics of its players and fans, but the NBA was the first sports league to shut down due to COVID-19, so it’s previously played the canary in the coal mine for sports with regards to societal breakdowns. Jeff Passan and Ken Rosenthal wrote their assessments of baseball’s current situation, but they can only offer educated guesses.
Assuming baseball as a whole tries to play through it, I’m preparing for a lack of coordination. There are 30 teams in the league, and only 7.8 percent of players are Black. Some teams are going to treat the protests against extrajudicial killings with more urgency than others based on their geography, their composition, their experience, and their leadership, both inside the clubhouse and upstairs. I’m not sure there’s one right way to go about navigating this terrain, because it has to be felt, and that can’t be forced.
Based on what we’ve seen from the nascent stages of this collective action, I think there’s a wrong way to go about it, and that involves a teammate being joined by nobody else. That ultimately says “this isn’t our problem,” and I don’t think that’s true anymore.
(Photo by Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire)
Well said, Jim. I was against the seasons starting/restarting because I think we need to examine the “sense of normalcy” that so many people have been asking for. Normal sucks for a lot of folks in this country and when the reason for that dynamic is institutional we all have a responsibility to act. We have a heartbreaking level of ‘not my problem’ in America and it’s time for us take ownership of what’s happening. Hoping that the actions these athletes are taking feels more acute this time around. I’m not sure we deserve sports right now and we can’t afford to let things get back to normal again until normal is a collective good.
There needs to be a serious discussion in this country- and in reality, we as white people just need to stay out of it. It is our problem, and we do care, but we are not the ones who have been racially profiled or faced some of the discriminations that the African-American community has faced. There are African-Americans who are on both sides of this argument, and they need to come together to address not only the police violence that has happened, but also the senseless murders of so many innocent young lives in their community at the hands of their own neighbors. The fact that not one athlete seems to have addressed the senseless violence that happens in their communities on a daily basis, let alone discussed not playing games as protest of it, makes it seem like there is a political agenda behind their actions. We might not deserve sports right now, but we need sports. Sports are not political- they are entertainment, and at this time more than ever, we need that (as long as the players remain safe in this COVID environment). I know I am probably going to get ripped for these comments, but we need to put politics aside, and REALLY have a discussion about how as a country we can unite and work to seriously curtail ALL of the violence in our cities. Until we stop focusing on one issue at the expense of the others, we will never heal. There are very well meaning people on both sides of this argument. They need to stop talking over each other, and start talking with each other to find real solutions.
If you think no athlete has addressed community violence or attempted to uplift their communities, you haven’t been paying attention. Just absolute willful disregard for reality in this comment. Shit, our team leader Tim Anderson has created an entire organization dedicated to ending community violence.
I was wrong in saying no one has addressed the violence issue, and striking would not help to solve it. You are right, and that is the proper way to address that, by working with the community. Anderson has done tremendous work in that regard and so have others in many other cities. And that is the proper way to go about this. Striking, or sitting out a game will not solve this problem, just as it wouldn’t solve the problem of violence. I applaud the many players who are working with their communities. And now they need to work with their communities to stop these police violence issues. If they are striking to call attention to this issue, that is unnecessary- it has gripped our nation especially over the last 3 months.
We obviously have a great political divide in our country. Striking over one issue and not another will just further that divide. In reading comments about this on other sites, that is exactly what it is doing. I wish that weren’t the case, but unfortunately it is.
The policing of players’ messaging and protest that has been going on in this country is gross. They kneel, they’re “disrespecting the flag.” They create organizations to make change, it’s ignored and completely overlook. They decide to strike, and apparently that’s not stopping police violence the right way. What do you want them to do? Quit their jobs as baseball players and become cops?
(And again, athletes in Chicago do events with police and the community every single year. This idea that they aren’t is completely untrue)
Why do you seem to feel your opinion on how to act counts more than the people on strike? Community violence (whatever that actually means) and police violence are separate issues. These athletes feel that police violence is not being paid enough attention, and that their jobs as entertainers are part of the distraction from it. People in their communities have been killed by police for decades. People ON THEIR TEAMS have been abused by police. So that’s why they chose this to strike on and not community violence. To say it’s “unnecessary” is insulting.
I would also point out that the strike is effective. The Bucks spoke with the Milwaukee Attorney General yesterday. And we are now talking about this issue. Every mayor and governor and team owner will be forced to comment. On any other day, or even one in which teams issue rote statements against violence as usual, we’d be talking about Dallas Keuchel or something.
Anyway, I’d encourage you to examine where your judgment of their form of action comes from, and why you feel inclined to share your disagreement.
And yet here you are, thinking very hard about the issue on a sports blog. Apparently, the players’ tactics are working, even if they haven’t convinced you to join in the cause.
One side is talking and trying to find solutions. The other side needs to be willing to listen.
I feel like the other side has done the bare minimum of listening and has decided there isn’t a problem, so why look for solutions, right?
I typically try to stay out of these conversations, but you seem to have legitimate thoughts on this topic and not just a political agenda to push, so I will go against my better judgement and respond.
I’m very confused by this comment. I’m not going to thrash you for it, because I may be misunderstanding what you’re trying to say and, again, you seem well intentioned even if I don’t agree. This is an issue EVERYONE should care about and everyone should be making an effort to help fix, regardless of skin color. I am white and while I do feel like I need to do more listening and less talking during these types of discussions, I don’t think the fact that this issue affects the black community more directly than me means that I should essentially sit this one out. The “discussion” that needs to take place involves A LOT of people (specifically those in power in our country) who are NOT black. This problem cannot and will not be fixed if the white population just steps aside and says it’s not our problem.
I disagree that sports is “what we need right now”. What we need right now is to take a serous look in the mirror as a country, confront reality and decide what we really want to be as a nation. We dont need a distraction from life right now, we need to be paying attention. I get the feeling that a lot of people who will get upset about these players (and those in the NBA) “boycotting” (or whatever you want to call it) are upset for one of two reasons: (1) they see this as a political issue (it’s not) and are mad because they don’t agree from a political perspective or (2) they are simply mad because there is nothing for them to watch on TV tonight. Reason #2 is somehow even more upsetting. It’s basically saying “I don’t disagree there is an issue, I just don’t want it to affect what’s on my TV while I’m laying on my couch at night”. That is the peak “not my problem” response and it is completely selfish. I want to watch baseball too, but I don’t want to watch baseball as bad as I want to see this country and it’s people improve themselves. And while boycotting the games may not directly change anything in terms of policy or procedure, it will piss enough people off to get people talking and paying attention. That’s how change starts and while I have my doubts about whether anything will actually come of this, I applaud the players for doing what they can to TRY to force change. I’m probably as guilty as anyone of not doing enough to try to help fix these social issues, but if me finding something to watch on Netflix instead of baseball can help even a little bit, I’m happy to do that bare minimum.
Again, despite the fact that I disagree with some or all of what you’re saying above, I appreciate the reasoned post and hopefully folks comments here can illuminate some of the reasons for a differing opinion.
I always said that I wouldn’t comment on this site about anything but the White Sox and baseball, and then I went against my better judgment and posted on this issue.
I’m sorry if I have offended everyone here. In the future I will stick to baseball. The idea that one side is talking and trying to find solutions and the other just won’t listen is just flat-out untrue. That’s the last I will comment on this issue.
I’m legitimately curious what you’ve seen, heard or read that makes you think this.
Can’t say it better. Thumbs up.
“I want to watch baseball too, but I don’t want to watch baseball as bad as I want to see this country and it’s people improve themselves.”
Well said EB
This sentence might make some semantic logic, but a halfway decent look at its real meaning and context should be enough for you to realize how absurd it is.
That’s not how issues work. That’s not how the world works. And if you think the “senseless violence” in poor black communities across our country is somehow magically not linked to the racists police state that people have been protesting, I think you need to do a lot of personal education and reassessment.
Maybe watch some YouTube videos or read some Wikipedia about the legacy of Red Lining (and covert redlining that persists to this very day). Maybe read about the Supreme Court ruling on bussing which allowed for white families to explicitly reestablish Jim Crow education policies — policies still in place in almost all of the United States.
Maybe read about the loss of black wealth from simple issues like home appraisals being 40% below market value all the way through the effects of intergenerational trauma.
Maybe, just maybe, try reading King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” in which he presciently predicts most of your exact argument today, and throughly dismantles it.
After you read that, think long and hard about the fact that the average black family in the US is poorer now than then. The average black man is more likely to be imrpisoned or killed by the police now than even in the Jim Crow South. The average black student attends a school more segregated today than in 1963. The average black family lives on a less racially diverse block today than in 1959.
The question isn’t “why are these black men so outraged about this one specific killing?” The question is **why is EVERYONE** not outraged EVERY SINGLE DAY?!
You beat me to many of the points I tried to make in my post, and you said them much more effectively, then added some extra points for good measure. Thanks, John.
I think you’re writing with good intentions, Roke, so I’ve tried to be as respectful as possible in voicing my disagreements with you. If I’ve missed the mark, I hope you’ll be gracious enough to believe that I’m writing in good faith, just as I’ve chosen to believe the same of you.
You’re right that white people “are not the ones who have been racially profiled or faced…discrimination.” Instead, white people are the ones usually DOING the racial profiling, the ones PERPETRATING the discrimination. And for that reason, you as white people (I’m not white; that’s always been made very clear to me) very much need to get involved in the effort to put an end to this nightmare. White folks made the mess. White folks need to clean it up. It just so happens that people of color are the ones who’ve been suffering as a result of it all. Even if you personally have never directly caused harm to a person of color, you’ve still benefited from a society that systematically devalues the lives of people of color, especially Black folks. And for that reason, you do have a moral responsibility to get off the sidelines and get involved in the struggle. Your silence will save no one.
You’re right that Black-on-Black violence is a terrible scourge that must be remedied. But have you ever asked yourself what created that cycle of violence in the first place? You may believe the answer is poverty, and you would be correct. But I would urge you to take the next step and ask yourself what created that cycle of Black poverty. It’s not because Black culture is somehow inherently pathological. It’s not because Black culture somehow shuns the honest pursuit of upward mobility. It’s because, among many other things, of a racially discriminatory housing policy enacted by the US government in the immediate aftermath of World War II, which red-lined Black families out of the benefits of home-ownership and thereby obstructed the accumulation of hereditable wealth in Black communities. (This is well understood by 20th-century American historians. There’s a well-regarded documentary about the matter. The first half can be viewed here. The second half can be viewed here. The film’s about an hour long. Yes, an hour is a long time. But if you can spend four hours watching a baseball game, you can spend one hour learning about the realities of structural racism in this country. If you’d rather read than watch, I recommend this book by Princeton historian Keeanga Yamahtta-Taylor.) Another big factor in the cycle of violence is the mass incarceration system, which breaks up many Black families, perpetuates Black poverty, and thereby reinforces the cycle of Black-on-Black violence. (The classic study of mass incarceration is Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow, a video lecture of which you can find here. There’s also Ava Duvernay’s documentary 13th, available on Netflix. Neither text explicitly draws the links between mass incarceration and Black-on-Black violence, but it doesn’t take much intelligence to draw the links on your own.) Red-lining, mass incarceration, structurally-produced poverty–these are some of the social conditions that ultimately lead to Black-on-Black violence. They are not problems that can be solved within the Black community. They are problems that demand the attention of everyone in our society.
I actually agree with you on this point, Roke. As I’ve been trying to argue, if we follow your advice and really take a serious look at all the “issues” that create “violence in our cities,” we will ultimately have to confront the structural racism that has defined this country ever since it was founded.
Again, I’ve done my best to treat your ideas respectfully, Roke. I hope you’ll show me the same courtesy if you choose to reply.
All of this, well said MM
MLB is supposed to be holding Jackie Robinson Day 2020 tomorrow, Friday 8/28 (which is the anniversary of MLK’s “I have a dream” speech). I wonder what the leagues/teams will do to commemorate that day given current circumstances. Is it better to cancel all games that day? Or have everyone wear #42 jerseys as planned, but maybe with an added BLM patch?
Seems like MLB would be well served to consult the players here. Unilaterally going forward with this seems likely to result in the players pushing forward with some demonstrations that the league may not want (and I wouldn’t fault the players for that).
Just watched the no-no, CB Buckner is a hero for calling that low strike; the most beloved of umpires alongside Flip a Coin Angel and Joe West. I guess if we lose the season at least we got to see the Abreu Hotstreak, Luis Robert, and maybe the best White Sox pitching performance of my lifetime. That said in terms of demographics I’d be kind of surprised if that happens; more likely that some players opt out.
In other news MLBtv’s latest patch on PS4 makes it impossible to skip commercials (taking control away from you), so you have to be on the spot when the third out happens to dodge them. Seems to be a similar thing on PC but I assume there’s some way to adblock it there still.
Good article. Kinda shameful teams took the field while their teammates protested. Whatever the Sox decide, I hope it’s in unison. I also found Clinton Yates op-ed to be enlightening: https://theundefeated.com/features/the-league-isnt-boycotting-anything-the-nba-needs-collective-bereavement/
Agreed. It really bummed me out. Bad leadership on those teams.
Great article, and great posts/comments here. Very delicate topic. To think that Covi19 and its more than 180K deaths might not be the biggest hurdle for sports to resume activities just tell us the gravity of all of these current events.
I was commenting with Kenwo this morning that the US society might be in a fragile state, and 2 or 3 wrongful deaths away from chaos, and uncontrollable rioting. It is like there is a toxic air spreading in our societies and people are breathing thru their covid face masks, and many are trying to get used to it as we get used to snow when Winter comes because after Winter, Spring will come. There won’t be a Spring on this unless the society accepts there is a problem and figures out how to solve it.
Excellent write-up of a difficult topic. Well done Jim.
Thank you for focusing on Dominic Smith’s reaction, which is worth sitting with for a while.
I rather like the boycotts. Make the people profiting off the events share in the pain financially if they lack the compassion to voluntarily do something meaningful. All the demographic points Jim made aside, NBA players seem to have more leverage (stars anyway) than their football/baseball counterparts just based on how small teams are and how much of a “stars” game it is. If Smith sits, the Mets out out a statement and the game goes on. Sadly it’s true for Timmy, too. If Giannis sits, the Bucks lose and over time people will stop watching. (I’m not a big basketball guy so please forgive me if the Bucks are a bad example.)
I’d be down with the players, after promising to resume today after the boycott yesterday, pull the same thing once everyone invests in the games being played. Fight dirty. It’s not like the leagues’ statements have any substance behind them, either.
Ed. Don’t mean to imply the Sox players wouldn’t join Tim! Just hypothetically.
My level of support for the strike (is that the term we’re using?) is dependent on what the desired resolution is. Totally on board with players using their platforms to advance their cause(s), but it’s not entirely clear how sitting out achieves that. Yes, the Bucks got to talk to the Attorney General but what came of it? Under what conditions will the strike no longer be necessary?
Notwithstanding the pandemic which catalyzes everything it touches, the core issues as I see them are police reform and economic opportunity in historically disinvested neighborhoods. I posted this (https://soxmachine.com/2020/06/08/the-white-soxs-silence-on-protests-grows-louder-by-the-day/#comment-7056794) after questions arose about the nature and form of the Sox social media reaction to George Floyd and I have largely the same opinion now. Unless these statements turn into political or economic action nothing will happen. Police reform legislation died despite reported agreement on 70-80% of the issues. If politicians can’t accept the proverbial half of a loaf because they either 1) see more benefit in the issue than the solution; or 2) would let the perfect be the enemy of the good, then we need to “throw the bums out.” Companies have to realize that if they are truly going to accept diversity, inclusion, and social justice obligations it can’t be relegated to conference rooms and social media platforms – they need to make conscious (and potentially risky) investment decisions to counter generations of disinvestment.
So, yes, let the players express themselves and we should all hear and see and feel what they feel. But I’m skeptical this latest effort will bring lasting change without someone adopting it as a political or economic movement.
I don’t agree with the “I’m not sure we deserve sports right now” take.
I don’t see professional sports as one big “privilege” for the common person or some great gift to us. It’s only a big privilege for the owners and athletes who make billions or millions off of our interest in their games. Many of these athletes with these big contracts would not be earning anywhere close to their current salaries if they did not have our support and were forced to find another line of work. And the owners probably find higher profit margins in MLB than in other businesses. If players and owners want to cancel the season, that’s their right. I will survive just fine, as I did during the few months of the pandemic when we didn’t have any sports.
Along with just about every other reasonable American, I am sickened by the Floyd, Taylor and Blake shootings. These things should not be happening. Every police officer involved should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Unfortunately, this will not be the last time something like this occurs in the U.S., or in the world. For instance, we still have had school shootings after Columbine and Sandy Hook. We still have had priests molesting kids years after stories about the Catholic Church scandal surfaced. Bad behavior does not automatically stop just because we demand that it stop.
In another few months, whether games are played or not, another stressed-out cop will fail to follow proper protocol. If LeBron, Tim Anderson and other star athletes want to stop playing their games and stop collecting their salaries to try and prevent this, that’s their right. If leagues want to shut down over this, that’s fine. However, history has shown that efforts to totally stamp out such behavior are not easy and might not be accomplished in their lifetimes.
I will continue to go to work each day that I can in this uncertain economy, while hoping my wife can stay safe from COVID-19 at her job in a health clinic and my kids can stay safe at college and in their workplaces. I also support Black Lives Matter, but if it’s not as high on my priority list as others think it should be, then I am sorry. If White Sox games are played the rest of the way, I plan to watch, and not treat doing so as something someone feels I might not “deserve.”
I’m actually shocked by the thoughtfulness of this comment. FYI I dont think anyone is trying to make you feel bad for watching the games.
I should prob clarify that I dont agree with several things here, but I am nonetheless surprised by the comment.
Nobody is saying you, individually, do not deserve sports. The country, collectively, does not deserve sports.
By striking, the players are targeting the owners, not the casual fan. The owners of professional sports teams are extraordinarily wealthy and hold considerable political power. Mayors, governors, representatives, and senators listen to them and – as we see in most stadium “negotiations” – are willing to give them what they want. The players are using their leverage to attempt to force those with real power to take action. Casual fans aren’t the target here, and debating over whether we “deserve” sports or whether the strike will change anyone’s mind misses the point. The fans aren’t the primary target here.
That’s where I’m at, too. To the points above, you hope there is a plan for using the leverage. Like – what can you guys make these powerful people do? “$50,000 for charity is nice and all, but… Could you harrass a senator for us?”
I would also throw major sponsors in with owners. If players striking can get the Nikes of the world to spend less resources lobbying to maintain the status quo via the US Chamber of Commerce and other lobbying groups, that could have a very material impact.
I don’t think this hurts the owners, they would rather cancel the season than pay players to play with reduced revenues.
That seems dubious. If that were the case, they wouldn’t be playing the games, right?
I’m not surprised that the Milwaukee Bucks took the lead to draw additional attention to this important movement. If you are not familiar with what happened to Sterling Brown (Milwaukee Bucks player) you should take the time to google what happened to him. Great SI article from a year or two ago. Luckily (probably because his father was a police officer), he survived his encounter with eight police officers for simply stopping at a Walgreens late at night and parking in a disabled spot. He was on the ground and tased multiple times. Fortunately for him no one kneeled on his neck. I think what ultimately saved him was one of the officers finally recognized him! I just know that we as a society have to do better. I applaud Doc Rivers etal for speaking out. If not now – when??
400 years of injustice. The year prior to the passing of the Civil Rights Bill, 1963, Black American families had, on average, “family wealth” equaling 10% of the average White American Family. In 2018 that number had increased to all of about 15%. Clearly passing laws has not created substantial change. We need to change hearts. Public efforts of ball players to touch the hearts or otherwise emotionally engage White Americans is the path forward.
I’m willing to bet even that 5% increase is most likely due to average white Americans getting poorer rather than any marginal increase in Black wealth.
I never thought I’d see another major sports commissioner as awful as Goodell, but here we are with Manfred! This audio from BVW on his call with manfred about tonight’s mets game: just wow.
…and BVW just put out a statement that the “play an hour later” idea was Jeff Wilpon’s, not Manfred’s. Which is plausible, given the Wilpons. It is amazing he threw his boss under the bus.
In any event, no game tonight. Here’s video of what the players did.
The Mets and Marlins just stood in silence for 42 seconds before leaving the field with a Black Lives Matter T-shirt covering home plate. It is the day before Jackie Robinson Day is observed.
Dominic Smiith, along with Dellin Betances, Robinson Canó, and Michael Conforto, just had a press conference at Citi Field discussing the decision not to play and the impact Smith’s comments last night have had (including on his white teammates, players on other teams, in the NFL and NBA, as well as national media).
Last offseason, I kept hoping the Sox would trade for Smith. Today, I am glad he has stayed in the largest media market in the country. Not that I wouldn’t still love to have his bat in right field, but his voice resonates further coming from New York.
Another case where the pandemic has rewritten the rules. With no fans in the stands, players (and organizations) can more easily take actions they feel are right. 40K thousands tickets sold and fans in the stands and maybe the calculation is different