ST. LOUIS -- Jack Flaherty wore a black shirt that read “I CAN’T BREATHE” while standing with the entire Cardinals roster before Wednesday’s exhibition game against the Royals at Busch Stadium. The team will make a unified statement by bringing awareness to social justice on Friday to begin the 2020 regular season.
When Flaherty makes his first Opening Day start, he said there will be a Black Lives Matter logo or wording on the mound at Busch Stadium. The Cardinals are one of several teams that have agreed to do that for Opening Weekend, he said.
“It’s great to have the acknowledgement,” Flaherty said. “You’ve got to start somewhere. … It’s not like we’re going to change things overnight. But it’s going to be what can we do to change things and start that process and get things moving in the right direction. I think that this is definitely a step towards that.”
The Cardinals have had conversations in their clubhouse about what the team can do to create awareness of social justice and help elicit change. The team had Turan Mullins, assistant dean and director of the office of diversity and inclusion at Maryville University in St. Louis, hold a discussion on Monday about social justice, inclusion and awareness. Players and coaches followed up Tuesday with their own clubhouse discussion about what they can do.
Flaherty referenced what Chicago athletes, including Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward and White Sox pitcher Lucas Giolito, did to help transform a liquor store into a fresh food market in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood on the West Side while having discussions with teenagers at an event.
“I know we’ve talked about different things and trying to take that idea and maybe try to do something with it,” Flaherty said. “It’s just been a lot of unity. After we had a conversation yesterday and everybody came up to Dex, Willie [McGee], myself and just was like, ‘We got your back. We got you. Whatever you guys want to do, we’re behind you. We got you guys.’ It just means a lot, no matter what it is.”
Flaherty has become one of the leading voices in baseball, using his platform on social media to bring attention to social justice. The murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25 stirred Flaherty and many other baseball players to speak up in pursuit of racial justice. When Flaherty was asked Wednesday about baseball returning, he made sure to mention Breonna Taylor -- a Louisville, Ky., woman killed on March 13 when police fired on her in her apartment while executing a no-knock warrant -- by name.
“It’s great that we’re getting to a place where baseball can happen, and the NBA is coming back, and other sports have come back,” Flaherty said. “It’s still not meant to be a distraction. There’s still a lot going on. It’s been however many days since Breonna Taylor was killed, and everybody wants justice for her. There are still a lot of things that have to be solved. While it’s great that baseball’s coming back and we’re able to play this game that we love… at the end of the day, there is still a lot that has to go on, and there’s still so much work that has to be done as part of the movement.”
Flaherty and Fowler have been leaders in the Cardinals’ clubhouse when having these discussions. They’ve also helped the Cards come up with the unified statement they will deliver before or during Friday night’s game.
“This group is very sincere about thinking about how we message things, not only in a symbolic manner, in a unified manner,” manager Mike Shildt said. “Some of the conversations are just making sure that what we do, we do together. So it’s not a polarizing effort, so we can eventually elicit and help elicit real solution and change and ongoing change.
“The great news is, awareness has been created. Friday will be an opportunity to create awareness for something that we’ll do together. And then beyond that, what’s the solution look like so we can have a society that has equality off the board and people don’t have to think twice about how they operate or whether there’s going to be any prejudices against them or not?”