Theo talks racial injustice: 'Silence is complicity'

June 8th, 2020

CHICAGO -- Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein did not want to remain silent. With protests happening around the globe and a national conversation taking place on systemic racism and police brutality, the leader of Chicago's front office felt compelled to share his thoughts.

Throughout the past three months, Epstein has held off on issuing any public comments amidst the coronavirus pandemic and MLB's ongoing negotiations about the 2020 season. On Monday afternoon, Epstein joined a conference call with Chicago media about the upcoming MLB Draft, and he began with a statement before fielding any questions.

"This call is about the Draft, but this is the first time I've spoken publicly in some time," Epstein said. "I'd like to start just by offering my condolences to the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and the countless victims who keep losing their lives to racist violence in this country year after year, decade after decade, century after century.

"I join my colleagues at the Cubs in standing up in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and the protesters who are doing their best to make this a real inflection point in our history. At this moment in time, silence is complicity, and it's important that all of our voices are heard. Thank you for allowing me the time to stand up in order to do that."

Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police on May 25 while being detained. Taylor was shot in her Louisville, Ky., home by police on March 13 as they executed a search warrant. Arbery was shot by a white civilian while jogging on Feb. 23 in Brunswick, Ga. Their deaths created a national call for protests in the name of progress and change when it comes to systemic racism.

On Thursday, Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward and second baseman Jason Kipnis were among the Chicago athletes who participated in an outreach event in the Austin neighborhood on Chicago's West Side. The event brought athletes, black teens and members of the Chicago Police Department together to have conversations.

"The beginning of it is people being willing to listen," Heyward said in an interview on ESPN 1000 in Chicago last week.

Epstein agreed, and he applauded the many black athletes who have come forward recently to discuss their own experiences.

"It's been really powerful and moving and eye-opening in some respects," Epstein said, "to read those articles and hear those testimonials from some of the very best, most important players in the game. I think it just really reminds us -- the recent events have really reminded us -- of the systemic nature of racism.

"What that means is that racism can show up in every one of our institutions. It means that it's there when you see it in the moment or not. It means that it's taught, learned and self-perpetuating. And it also means that all of our individual attitudes, discussions, actions and inactions are part of the problem on some level.

"I think what it means to me, as a next step, it means it's certainly time to listen, and we absolutely have been doing that and plan on doing that some more. We have listening sessions in the planning process for the front office, the baseball side, the business and the Major League team.

"And as a white person who's had a lot of advantages and a lot of privilege, I can't begin to walk in the shoes of a black person in this country or a black player in Major League Baseball. I think I can also be looking inward, too. I think that's another step that we all have to take in society, as well as in the game, is being able to look hard at ourselves."

Epstein said that Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts and president of business operations Crane Kenney are in the planning phase of creating a diversity committee for the organization. Part of the goal will be to examine the team's hiring practices and see where the Cubs can make changes and improve.

Epstein acknowledged that he could also do some self-examining.

"I've hired a black scouting director [and] farm director in the past," Epstein said, "but the majority of people that I've hired, if I'm being honest, have similar backgrounds as me and look a lot like me. That's something I need to ask myself why. I need to question my own assumptions, my own attitudes. I need to find a way to be better.

"I think if we all take that approach in this industry -- we need to -- if there's one thing we've learned with systemic racism in general, the system doesn't fix itself. It's on each of us to take action to stand up and make some changes."