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Awkward activism: MLB’s uneven response to racial injustice

UPDATED: Thu., Aug. 27, 2020

Oakland’s Tony Kemp wears a Black Lives Matter shirt as he stands with his team while the national anthem is played before Wednesday’s game against Texas.  (Associated Press)
Oakland’s Tony Kemp wears a Black Lives Matter shirt as he stands with his team while the national anthem is played before Wednesday’s game against Texas. (Associated Press)
By David Brandt Associated Press

In a typically awkward way, Major League Baseball has been pulled into America’s discussion about racial injustice.

Some teams are playing. Some aren’t. Two teams walked off the field after the national anthem.

But across the sport, one theme became clear: Baseball shouldn’t avoid potentially difficult conversations and decisions regarding social issues.

Though the process may be imperfect, there was agreement that coaches, players and teams should speak their mind.

“This is at the forefront now,” said Oakland infielder Tony Kemp, who is Black. “By sitting out tonight’s game, I feel like it’s just a small building block of what we want to see. These couple days are historic times in sports. One day, our kids are going to look back and ask us what was going on and what did we do to help bring awareness to these issues in the world and we’re going to say, ‘One game we just decided not to play.’ ”

Oakland’s game at Texas was among seven that were postponed by Thursday evening, along with Philadelphia at Washington, Baltimore at Tampa Bay, Minnesota at Detroit, Colorado at Arizona and Boston at the Blue Jays in Buffalo, New York. Some games were played as scheduled.

The New York Mets and Miami Marlins jointly walked off the field after a moment of silence, draping a Black Lives Matter T-shirt across home plate as they chose not to start their scheduled game Thursday night.

The national anthem was played and all players and coaches stood.

Mets outfielder Dominic Smith – a Black man who wept Wednesday night while discussing the shooting by police of a Black man in Wisconsin over the weekend – then led New York onto the field. Players took their positions, then reserves and coaches filed out of both dugouts and stood silently for 42 seconds. The game was then postponed.

Without much apparent guidance from MLB, teams were left to make decisions for themselves. Some games were officially postponed a few hours before the scheduled start time. Others, like Colorado-Arizona, appeared to be on schedule until a few minutes before first pitch.

St. Louis Cardinals ace Jack Flaherty was frustrated there wasn’t a more unified response.

“It’s tough because yesterday would have been the day for league-wide action, and it wasn’t able to happen league-wide yesterday,” Flaherty said.

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