J-Hey, Matthews hold roundtable on race in US

June 17th, 2020

Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward and former Cubs outfielder Gary Matthews discussed the Black Lives Matter movement in a roundtable discussion Tuesday hosted on the club’s social media platforms.

Worldwide protests and discussion centered around racial injustice and police brutality have come to the forefront in the wake of the recent killings of Black Americans Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, with the latter two coming at the hands of the police.

MLB players have been among those calling for change, with Heyward one of the more high-profile voices. He has participated in multiple interviews and roundtable discussions, and he was one of a handful of Chicago athletes who spoke to kids from the By The Hand Club for Kids organization in an event on the city’s west side last week. As a prominent Black player in baseball, Heyward said he has seen the recent events as an opportunity for him to step up and use his platform for good.

“I need to continue to make these connections, meet up with police officers and just listen and continue to do my part so that I can be well rehearsed on what the issues look like,” said Heyward. “I want them to see me, a Black person from McDonough, Ga., embracing the city and embracing the youth and embracing the future as someone who appreciates what’s happening.”

Heyward said that while his teammates know who he is and what he stands for, the most important things he can do right now are listen to what other people have to say and be unafraid to voice his own perspective.

“It’s overwhelming, and there’s a lot of pressure to say the right thing, but hey, get out there,” he said. “Take these chances and continue to use that voice in the right way.”

Matthews detailed the racism he encountered as a Minor Leaguer in the late 1960s and recalled the advice he received from Hall of Famers Hank Aaron and Willie Mays.

“They showed you the way,” Matthews said of Aaron and Mays, “and they would always say that [as a Black player] you’ve got to be twice as good. That was always there in the back of your mind. Your work ethic has to be off the charts; there is no quit, there is no finish line.”

Regardless of the early success Heyward enjoyed, including an All-Star selection and a runner-up finish in the 2010 National League Rookie of the Year Award race, he says he has still had to overcome prejudice and challenges as an African American.

“As someone who was a first-rounder to his hometown team and earned the contract that I earned before coming to Chicago, there’s still things I have to go through on a daily basis as a Black person,” said Heyward. “I’m not asking for any special treatment, but I just want an opportunity to be myself, be with my teammates and bring what I bring on a daily basis. I need you to understand who I am and what I bring.”

You can watch the entirety of the half-hour conversation on the Cubs’ YouTube page.