Fowler sits out to protest social injustice

Flaherty joins teammate to bring awareness to Blake shooting

August 27th, 2020

ST. LOUIS -- Standing in solidarity with other players throughout Major League Baseball, Cardinals outfielder and pitcher declined to participate in Wednesday’s game against the Royals at Busch Stadium, the Cardinals announced shortly before the game started as scheduled.

Fowler was a healthy scratch after originally being in the lineup and in right field. Like Fowler, Flaherty will be on the active roster but will not participate in Wednesday’s game. The two players have “decided to stand in solidarity with the other players throughout Major League Baseball,” the Cardinals said in a statement. “The Cardinals’ organization supports their decisions.”

Fowler and Flaherty left the ballpark shortly after their decision, which was made in the hour before first pitch.

The Cardinals held what a player called a “mini meeting” immediately before Wednesday’s series finale against the Royals to discuss whether they would play the game at all. The players-only conversation was held so close to game time that first pitch was pushed back five minutes, starter ’s warmup was delayed and Cardinals manager Mike Shildt and a handful of players were not present on the field during the national anthem. The manager was awaiting word from the players on whether the team would continue. Players decided to play -- and they won, 6-5, on a walk-off walk after entering the ninth inning down three runs.

“They asked me my opinion,” Shildt said after the game. “I said, 'I will stand behind anything this clubhouse decides.'”

In the NBA, the Milwaukee Bucks boycotted their playoff game against the Orlando Magic to bring attention to racial injustice and systemic oppression in America. The NBA then postponed the rest of its slate on Wednesday. The WNBA postponed its regular-season games scheduled on Wednesday, and five MLS matches were postponed as well. Shortly afterward, the Brewers and Reds decided not to play their game in Milwaukee, the Padres and Mariners followed suit in San Diego and the Giants and Dodgers opted not to play in San Francisco. Jason Heyward was a healthy scratch from the Cubs’ lineup, and Matt Kemp sat out of the Rockies’ lineup Wednesday as well.

On Sunday in Kenosha, Wis., Jacob Blake, a Black man, was reportedly shot seven times by a white police officer. Blake survived the shooting, but he is paralyzed from the waist down. Months after George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, Breonna Taylor’s in Kentucky and Ahmaud Arbery’s in Georgia sparked many to take to the streets in protests around the country, protests have flared up again, and many athletes spoke up again to bring attention and demand change.

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Flaherty and Fowler have been outspoken on social media this season about racial injustice in the wake of Floyd’s murder. After his start on Monday, Flaherty spoke to the media about waking up to news about another Black man being shot by police.

“It just continues,” said Flaherty, who is biracial and identifies as Black. “I mean, just because sports is coming back doesn’t mean these conversations stop and that there’s no call for action. It means we actually need more call for action. We need more people to continue this conversation, continue to bring light to events like this. What would have happened if somebody hadn’t filmed it? Just thoughts and prayers with him and his family right now.”

Shildt said he spoke privately first with Fowler and then with Flaherty about their decision. Shildt said Fowler assured his manager that he would be back Thursday for the doubleheader against the Pirates.

“It was a tough decision for Dex,” Shildt said. “He came in, we talked about it and I told him, ‘Look man, I support you completely with your decision and appreciate the solidarity, and we are behind you.’ He was appreciative of that, and I respect it, and support him and also Jack.”

The timing of the team’s clubhouse meeting was close to first pitch, which factored into the Cardinals’ decision to play, as did their upcoming schedule with Thursday’s doubleheader and seven more twin bills scheduled in September. Most were ready to play when they saw Fowler dressing to leave.

“The whole not-playing aspect was kind of brought in a little too late,” said. “We came to the field expecting to play, everyone was kind of ready to play, and right before the game, we saw Dex starting to get ready to go home, and you saw Flaherty getting ready to go home. It was going to be tough for us to tell the Royals we weren’t going to play, but we were going to play for our brothers.

“We stand behind Dex; we stand behind Jack. Those are our teammates. Those are our brothers. We love those guys. At the end of the day, this is bigger than baseball. A lot of things are happening right now that are not pretty, and a lot of injustice. We love those guys. We got their back.”