Rev. Jackson shares perspective with Cubs

June 19th, 2020

CHICAGO -- As protests persist around the United States and world over racial injustice and police brutality, important conversations are also taking place. Another opportunity for discussion arrived on Friday with the Juneteenth holiday.

Juneteenth is an annual holiday that commemorates the end of slavery in the United States on June 19, 1865, and there is a growing push to officially observe this important day in the country's history. For the Cubs, the holiday was also a chance to have civil rights activist Rev. Jesse Jackson participate in a virtual conversation with the team's employees on Friday afternoon.

"We were trying to figure out a way to observe Juneteenth," said Julian Green, the Cubs' vice president of communications and community affairs. "We were looking to see how we could do it in an authentic way, especially for a large number of people who don't even know what Juneteenth is, who may not be aware. We thought the best approach would be helping people learn about it and educate people about it, versus doing a day off.

"And obviously, I couldn't think of a better person than probably one of the most prominent figures in the modern civil rights movement in Jesse Jackson. We are just overjoyed that he would make time to provide his perspective on this moment, as well as how history, through slavery, may have played a role in some of what we're experiencing today."

While the conference with Rev. Jackson was set to be an internal dialogue for Cubs associates, president of baseball operations Theo Epstein joined a public discourse on MLB Network on Friday, with the debut of MLB Tonight: A Conversation co-hosted by Fran Charles and Harold Reynolds.

The 90-minute special was simulcast on and covered issues surrounding racial injustice and inequality both in baseball and in society. Epstein and White Sox executive vice president Kenny Williams both took part in the show, along with Derek Jeter, Torii Hunter and Josh Bell, among others.

Epstein recently attended a Black Lives Matter protest and was one of the baseball executives who helped organize a collective donation of more than $1 million committed to Campaign Zero, Color of Change, the Equal Justice Initiative, the Jackie Robinson Foundation and the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund.

"That was a really important step, but just the first step," Epstein said on 670 The Score in Chicago last week. "In recognizing that's the first step, we all felt and we all agreed, to listen, first of all, listen to our players, listen to our coworkers with different backgrounds and different perspectives than us, then look inward and examine if there's things we can do better."

On Tuesday, Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward and former Cubs outfielder Gary Matthews held a roundtable discussion on the team's social media platforms. Their conversation is available on the Cubs' YouTube page.

"Look, I think it's important not to shy away from this, shy away from this moment," Green said. "It's great for the protests and the movement to shine a light on this. And it gives us an opportunity not to shy away from this, but to really stand up and see how we can play a role."