Players, Teams Elect To Sit Out In Protest Of Latest Police Shooting

Image credit: (Photo by Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

UPDATE: At least four more games were postponed as of 4:30 p.m. ET on Thursday: Red Sox/BlueJays; Twins/Tigers; Phillies/Nationals; Rangers/A’s

SAN DIEGO—Amidst a wave of protests over the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wis., players and teams across Major League Baseball elected to kneel, sit and, in some cases, postpone their games Wednesday to protest the string of police violence against Black men and women across the country.

Shortly after the Milwaukee Bucks announced they would not play their NBA playoff game against the Orlando Magic to protest the shooting, the Milwaukee Brewers decided they would not play their game against the Cincinnati Reds.

Within an hour, the ripple effects began to spread across MLB.

Mets outfielder Dominic Smith kneeled during the national anthem. Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward chose to sit out Chicago’s game. And then the Seattle Mariners, the team with the most Black players in MLB, voted unanimously not to play their game against the San Diego Padres. The Dodgers and Giants announced they would not play shortly after.

“Given the pain in the communities of Wisconsin and beyond following the shooting of Jacob Blake, we respect the decisions of a number of players not to play tonight,” MLB said in a statement. “Major League Baseball remains united for change in our society and we will be allies in the fight to end racism and injustice.”

The Mariners’ decision unfolded rapidly in San Diego. About three hours before game time, within minutes of the news the Brewers had elected not to play, the Mariners players on the field at Petco Park left the field to return to their clubhouse. Shortly after, the Mariners players and coaches in the visitor’s bullpen returned to the clubhouse as well.

Manager Scott Servais emerged from the visitor’s dugout around 3:40 p.m. PT and met with Padres manager Jayce Tingler. The Padres remained on the field and continued taking batting practice after a short discussion.

But about 20 minutes later, Mariners players Shed Long, Kyle Seager and Marco Gonzales emerged from the dugout and spoke with Padres players Austin Hedges, Tommy Pham and Manny Machado. The Mariners players had voted not to play, and the Padres agreed to postpone the game.

“The Seattle Mariners respect the team’s decision not to play tonight’s game,” the club said in a statement. “The Seattle Mariners stand with our players as they speak out with their words and actions against social injustice.”

“We understand the Mariners decision to postpone tonight’s game,” the Padres said in a statement, “and we support the players’ efforts to use their platform to bring awareness to the very serious issue of racial injustice impacting our country today.”

The Mariners have eight Black players on their active roster, including starting position players Long, Kyle Lewis, Dee Gordon and J.P. Crawford and starting pitchers Taijuan Walker, Justus Sheffield and Justin Dunn.

Some of them took to Twitter to express their feelings following the team’s vote not to play. Gordon published a two-part Tweet, writing, “There are serious issues in this country. For me, and for many of my teammates, the injustices, violence, death and systemic racism is deeply personal. This is impacting not only my community, but very directly my family and friends. Our team voted unanimously not to play tonight. Instead of watching us, we hope people will focus on the things more important than sports that are happening.”

Dunn wrote, simply, “Enough is enough” with the hashtag #BLM, short for Black Lives Matter. Long followed with his own Tweet saying, “Enough is enough.”

Shortly after the Mariners’ decision became public, Rockies outfielder Matt Kemp and Cardinals outfielder Dexter Fowler and pitcher Jack Flaherty elected not to play in their respective games, either.  

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts and outfielder Mookie Betts said they planned to not participate in their game, either, before it was postponed.

Players across MLB had voiced protest in different ways since the season began after the high-profile police killings of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in Louisville. During Opening Weekend, all 30 teams held a pregame ceremony in which they held black fabric in unison around the infield and a video of current and former African-American players played on the scoreboard speaking out against discrimination and racism.

Yankees outfielders Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Hicks kneeled during the national anthem prior to New York’s second game of the season, two of the many players who kneeled during Opening Weekend. Athletics players Khris Davis and Tony Kemp raised their fists during the national anthem prior to their first game, as did others around the league.

Players across the league donned Black Lives Matter T-shirts on the field during pregame workouts, and “BLM” logos were placed on mounds and other areas of ballparks across the league. The Twins placed a graphic on their right-field wall saying, “Justice For George Floyd.”

But no one had elected not to play until Wednesday. The Brewers, who play 40 miles from Kenosha where Blake was shot, became the first to take the step.

With it, they and others around MLB made their strongest protest to date.

“The players from the Brewers and Reds have decided to not play tonight’s baseball game,” the Brewers said in a statement. “With our community and our nation in such pain, we wanted to draw as much attention to the issues that really matter, especially racial injustice and systemic oppression.”

This story will continue to be updated.

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