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Roberts: Betts in lineup, players 'stay unified'

@kengurnick
August 27, 2020

Mookie Betts was in the Dodgers' lineup for Game 1 of Thursday’s doubleheader against the Giants after being the focal point of Wednesday night’s decision by both clubs not to play in protest of the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wis., on Sunday. Betts, who tallied his 1,000th

Mookie Betts was in the Dodgers' lineup for Game 1 of Thursday’s doubleheader against the Giants after being the focal point of Wednesday night’s decision by both clubs not to play in protest of the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wis., on Sunday.

Betts, who tallied his 1,000th career hit with a single in the sixth inning of a 7-0 win, originally was out of the Game 1 lineup, but manager Dave Roberts explained why and how that changed.

“In talking to Mookie last night he didn’t plan on playing today; regardless of the doubleheaders, he wasn’t going to play,” said Roberts. “He felt like he was going to stand firm on his position, which I absolutely respect and support. But in talking to him this morning, about an hour ago, talking to the Players Alliance and Black players around the league, they just came to the consensus that they can use their platform by playing today, both games.

“And also the fact that there’s a lot of white teammates that stood beside them by not playing. So, acknowledging that and to stay unified and play and to stay in lockstep with their teammates was very important, which I absolutely agree with and support as well, with the idea that continued conversations and solutions and how we can make life better for Black people, Black kids, Black girls and boys, men, women, for everyone.”

Roberts said he would manage on Thursday and first-base coach George Lombard and strength coach Travis Smith would also perform their duties.

Roberts said the past two days have been emotional and exhausting, but necessary.

“I think the vulnerability of everyone in our clubhouse that the public doesn’t get to see, the conversations that have happened in our industry and other industries, has been good,” he said. “There’s been a lot of tough conversations. And for guys to stand together and not play a Major League Baseball game is a big deal. For the conversations that happened last night, by the media and in homes all over the world, that’s the point.”

Roberts said the sudden activism by ballplayers is multilayered.

“One is, with social media, people feel more of an opportunity to show who they really are, on the athlete side, peeling back the layers and giving their lives out there, so people understand who they are day to day, what they’re really like,” he said. “Now, having a vehicle or tool to voice their thoughts and opinions and beliefs. That individuality is a very good thing.

“I don’t think it’s solely the responsibility of athletes. But I think when you’re looking at such a small percentage of Black players in baseball and the things that are happening, men getting shot multiple times, unarmed, to the point that enough is enough. I just think the great thing is that the white players think the same way. A collection of different races and backgrounds come together for a common purpose and hopefully solution is what’s important.”

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.