In solidarity, Crew, Reds decide not to play

August 27th, 2020

MILWAUKEE -- Standing in solidarity with the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks and sparking similar actions around Major League Baseball, Brewers and Reds players elected not to take the field on Wednesday for their scheduled game at Miller Park.

Brewers players unanimously made the call on Wednesday afternoon about three hours before the scheduled first pitch, and about an hour after the Bucks refused to take the floor for Game 5 of their playoff series against the Magic in response to the recent shooting of Jacob Blake by a police officer in Kenosha, Wis. After the Brewers voted in a team meeting not to play the game, the Reds agreed. The game will be made up as part of a doubleheader on Thursday, starting at 5:10 p.m. ET.

Players from the Brewers, Reds and teams across professional sports have been speaking out in recent days after Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, was shot multiple times in the back by a police officer in Kenosha on Sunday evening. He survived the shooting, but he is paralyzed from the waist down, according to his lawyer, and the incident sparked protests in southeastern Wisconsin.

On Wednesday, players’ words turned to action.

After the Brewers and Reds elected to postpone their game, the Mariners and Padres did the same in San Diego, and the Dodgers and Giants in San Francisco. Elsewhere, individual players including the Cubs’ Jason Heyward, the Cardinals’ Dexter Fowler and the Rockies’ Matt Kemp were healthy scratches from their teams’ lineups.

“What the Bucks did and what the NBA players have done, they've certainly been leaders, but our players did a courageous thing in Major League Baseball,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “They went first and I'm proud of them for that. They had a very good conversation about it, an important conversation, a meaningful conversation, and they chose to act. They said if not now, when are we going to act? We've had conversations, we've worn T-shirts, but this was a chance for some action and they decided to take it. I'm proud of them for that.”

Said Brewers first baseman Ryan Braun: “Obviously with what happened in Kenosha, it’s close to home. … You know, we’ve worn shirts that say, ‘Justice. Equality. Now.’ We’ve made statements. But at some point, actions speak louder than words, and we felt like today provided a unique opportunity, a moment for us to use our platform to actually put these words and these statements into action.”

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The Brewers tweeted a joint statement from the players of both teams:

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

The NBA subsequently postponed all three of the playoff games scheduled for Wednesday. The WNBA also postponed all of its Wednesday games, while five of six scheduled MLS games were postponed.

“I think it’s an enormous stand [by the Bucks],” said Brewers closer Josh Hader, who saw the news on a clubhouse television moments before taking part in a previously scheduled Zoom session with reporters. “It’s more than sports, and they showed it. It’s not about the game; it’s more than that. And this is a time where we need to really not stay quiet and show our power and our voices.”

Hader’s interview had been scheduled the night before, and while on first blush he might not have been the Brewers’ first choice to address social justice issues, he spoke from a place of understanding. The 26-year-old left-hander has had a very public education after racist and homophobic tweets he’d written as a teenager came to light during the 2018 All-Star Game. A tearful Hader issued multiple public apologies, underwent sensitivity training through MLB and retained the support of teammates of all skin colors and backgrounds, who spoke to the character of the adult they had come to know.

Now Hader has joined the voices on the team speaking up about what they view as injustice. It’s a conversation that MLB teams have been having since they reported to Summer Camp amid protests over the death of George Floyd under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer.

“It’s something that we’ve been talking about since the day we got here, and it’s something that we need to continue to talk about,” Hader said. “It’s something that can’t just stay quiet, and it’s nothing that we can just put behind us. All of us need to have a voice and bring light to this situation.”

The decision not to play came together quickly after news broke of the Bucks taking a stand in Orlando. Just before the Brewers’ meeting, player rep Brent Suter and several others ran into a pair of former teammates, Mike Moustakas and Wade Miley, who now play for the Reds.

“They just said flat out, 'We support you guys no matter what. Whatever you decide to do, we're all in favor. We want to follow your lead,’” Suter said. “So that was a great comfort for us going to the meeting. Forfeiture wasn't really talked about in our meeting at all, because we knew the Reds were really supportive about it.”

In their statement, the Reds said they respected the Brewers’ decision to not play, “and join them in pausing and reflecting on the events that are causing such pain and hardship in their local community and across our great nation. In our commitment to help bring positive change, the Reds support the players’ intention to build awareness of the issues around racial equality.”

"There’s clearly things that are going on that are so much more important than what we’re doing,” Reds manager David Bell said earlier in the day, before the game was postponed. “I mean, when we’re here, this is everything to us. You know, we continue to prepare to play right now, but it’s devastating, and my heart goes out to everyone affected by it.”

In that, the teams were united.

“You can’t just wear these shirts and think that’s all well and good,” Christian Yelich said. “That’s what you saw here today, us coming here collectively as a group and making a stand, making a statement for change, for making the world a better place, for equality, for doing the right thing. And we did that as a group. It was a unanimous vote. Everyone was in favor of not playing and sending a message and making a statement.”

On Monday, Counsell spoke pointedly about the Blake shooting in his pregame remarks. Two days later, he was proud of Brewers and Reds players for taking action.

“We're not going to provide a solution tonight,” Counsell said. “Nobody thought that was going to be the result of this, but that doesn't mean you don't act. It doesn't mean you don't do something. We don't know what tomorrow brings, but I don't think when you make a statement like this, when you're part of this as an athlete and as a member of a team that sat in the meeting we had, that it doesn't change you.

“I told the guys, ‘This is a big thing you're deciding to do. This is big. This is real. It changes you. It doesn't go back to normal because you did something that was brave and that was courageous.’ You can say it doesn't make a difference, but it's a statement, and I think it does.”