Fight for social justice rings loudly with Mariners

July 5th, 2020

SEATTLE -- Scott Servais says it's important to listen and learn, but he's not talking this time about baseball strategy or the latest analytical innovations. The Mariners manager was responding to the Black Lives Matter movement and the issue of racial injustice.

With a Major League-high 10 African-Americans on their 40-man roster, the Mariners have been out front in recent weeks about the importance of racial awareness, and Servais doesn't intend to let that change as his club regroups after the lengthy shutdown for the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I know from a personal level, I've needed to make changes in just my awareness and understanding and kind of relearn the history of what's gone on," Servais said Saturday on a Zoom call with the media. "It's something that I'm very aware of and very proud of the fact the Mariners do have a group of young players, African-American, they all have different backgrounds, and I want to take the time to celebrate that and learn from those guys.

"It's something I've talked about with our group, it's something I'll address with our team," Servais said. "Because we are family in here, and if you're true family, you really want to understand what everyone has gone through throughout their lives. You can never totally walk in their shoes. There's no way. How could we?

"But to respect it, learn from it and help. In this seat I sit in, I want to help educate young people along the way, too. But the only way I can do that, I have to listen. I have to learn. I have to educate myself. It's been a real learning experience. It's one that I look forward to continuing to address with our players."

That open stance is appreciated by the players, four of whom did an online panel discussion with Mariners broadcaster Dave Sims last month during which they talked about the issues facing Black men in society and MLB.

"I really am thankful for the fact we've been able to express this in a way I don't think has been expressed before and able to come together in a way I haven't seen before," said outfielder . "We're really starting to see a movement that has been unprecedented, and we have a big opportunity. I just want to be a part of that and help that continue to move forward as we continue to try to come together and fight for social justice, as well as continuing to give love to one another."

It's been a tumultuous few months for all Americans dealing with the pandemic and then the racial unrest that followed George Floyd's death in Minneapolis. For the Mariners, add in the uncertainty of baseball's situation, which finally cleared up this week with the return to workouts.

"Baseball is kind of the easy part for me," said pitcher . "Dealing with a lot of these social injustices growing up as an African-American child and African-American male, in my home I was raised to have these conversations at 5 years old. At 5, I was learning how to handle a police stop. So a lot of this stuff that's going on, it's sad to see.

"But for the African-American culture, it's something we've been seeing for so long in our lives that in a way it's almost become like normal. We're finally tired of accepting that as normal, so finally realizing it's OK for me to speak up has been one of the biggest things that I've had to deal with personally."

As the Black players on the Mariners have spoken up more on social media, they've received support from numerous teammates.

"Everybody has been great," Dunn said. "I'll use [fellow rookie Braden Bishop] as an example. He's been at people's throats on Twitter, having our backs and trying to have our voice heard from a different perspective. So our teammates have been great. The front office has been amazing for even trying to put that [panel discussion] on and have our voices heard. I'm nothing but appreciative for the Mariners and extremely blessed to be part of a great organization."

Servais said that conversation needs to continue, both in and out of the clubhouse.

"The more we talk about it and the more comfortable we get, the more we understand," he said. "And that's important as a society. It's something we are going to address a lot as a team, and it's really no different than a lot of the other things we do, other than the fact that the history of what's gone on here in our country needs to change.

"Going forward, I believe it will because we've got a lot of people that believe very strongly. I'm proud of our players for speaking up about it. I think they've handled it really well. Some of the guys are more active on social media than others, and that's fine. They've been very respectful and not afraid to give their opinion. I support everything they're doing."