Player activism continued for the second straight day across MLB, as players throughout the league chose not to play, leading to the postponement of seven games on Thursday. This comes a day after player protests led to three postponements on Wednesday.
Against a backdrop of players protesting the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wis., seven more games were called off Thursday: Rockies-D-backs, A’s-Rangers, Twins-Tigers, Red Sox-Blue Jays, Rays-Orioles, Phillies-Nationals and Mets-Marlins.
The most poignant moment took place at Citi Field. The Marlins and Mets took the field and observed a 42-second moment of silence – a nod to Jackie Robinson Day, which will be celebrated Friday. The teams then walked back off the field. Before leaving, Marlins outfielder Lewis Brinson draped a Black Lives Matter T-shirt over home plate.
"It needs to be an ongoing thing," Brinson said. "We can't just have one day out of the baseball year that we bring light to everything. It needs to be Jackie Robinson Day. It needs to be the day after, the day before. I need to do a better job of trying to get into the community, and into the inner cities, and young Black kids around Miami and around the United States to know that you have my support, and I'm someone you can look up to.”
The Mets' Dominic Smith, who was tearful when addressing the issue of racial inequality after Wednesday’s game, said he was encouraged by the response he received.
“Just to see how moved my peers are, my teammates, my brothers … everyone who’s close to me on a daily basis. … It made me feel like we are on the right path to change.”
Said Robinson Canó: “We show unity no matter where you come from, and no matter what color.”
Elsewhere, team meetings dominated the early hours Thursday afternoon. The Twins, whose hometown of Minneapolis grabbed national attention in the wake of the May 25 police killing of George Floyd, acted swiftly while meeting in Detroit.
“The fact that we're even talking about these things means we're all moving in the direction that we should be moving in,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “I never thought I'd be discussing this with any of you or with our players or our staff members on such a grand scale and in such a meaningful way. The amount of emotion we've seen from different players and staff members over the last six months is more than I've ever seen in my entire life.”
Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said the Twins and Tigers had their own meetings, and then the managers talked, confirming both sides were opting not to play.
“We didn't ask everybody in there, ‘Do you want to play?’” Gardenhire said of his team’s meeting. “We basically said, ‘What do we want to do here?’ We talked to a few of our leaders who had talked to the players, and they decided, 'Well, I don't think it's the right thing to do to play.' And that's when we all step up and have their backs and said, ‘Absolutely.’ I would've had a hard time playing today. After going through that meeting, I didn't want to go out there.”
The A’s decision came after they had briefly discussed whether to play Wednesday’s game in Texas. With such a short amount of time before the game started, the players ultimately provided teammates the option to sit out if they chose, though everyone decided to play. The conversations became more involved Thursday morning, and the A’s were united in their decision to sit out their finale with the Rangers.
“The city that we play in has a long history of fighting for what is right,” shortstop Marcus Semien said. “That’s what we are trying to do here. I feel like a lot of our fans will have our backs on this. When they turn on what they think will be an A’s game and it’s not on there, they’ll understand why. Take the light off us for a night and educate yourselves on what is going on in our country and how we can make things better.”
In Buffalo, Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke’s voice cracked as he addressed discussed the players’ decision not to play.
“If you're a kid and you turn on the TV tonight, and you don't see that we're playing, and you asked your parents, ‘Why, aren't the Red Sox playing?’” he said. “I hope the parents have a serious discussion with their kids and tell them what's going on or explain what's going on. Because we need we need to discuss these things more, we need to listen more. And that's the only way that we're going to change.”
Said Jays skipper Charlie Montoyo: “I’ve been a victim of racism. I know some players have also been victims of racial discrimination. If a player wants to use his platform to make a statement about racial injustice, I fully support that.”
Nationals manager Dave Martinez, who had an emotional response to all of the protests following Wednesday’s game at Nationals Park, said the Phillies and Nationals “stuck together” on the decision to not play Thursday.
“We believe in something,” Martinez said. “We believe in a cause. We all want to play -- there’s no doubt about it. But this means more, and it’s more important to us than going out there and playing right now.”
"It’s not about what you look like, your race or where you come from,” Nationals infielder Josh Harrison said. “We talk about tomorrow being Jackie Robinson Day. You look at the movie ‘42’ -- it portrayed that he had a teammate in Pee Wee Reese that stood up for him when times were tough. At the end of the day … it’s about humanity and respecting each other and things that we tell our kids -- treat others how you want to be treated."
“I’ve heard people ask: What do the players want?” Phillies first baseman Rhys Hoskins said. “Obviously, change. We’re hoping for change. We know that some of these issues that are going on in this country are rather big issues. But even if there are baby steps toward changing those issues, that feels like a win. I think that change starts with these conversations.”
Not long after the scheduled first pitch in the Rockies’ game with the D-backs at Chase Field, word came down from the Rockies that they had elected not to play, and the D-backs stood behind their opponents’ decision.
That came a day after the teams chose to play, though Rockies outfielder Matt Kemp personally sat out that Wednesday game.
“I don’t think they realized what was going on at the time,” said Kemp, referring to the sports-wide protest movement that was just beginning on Wednesday evening. “There were just a lot of moving parts. But today, I had a really good conversation with Trevor [Story] and some of those guys. It was a really good conversation with Trevor. He poured his heart out to me.”
The Rays and Orioles announced their postponement a few minutes after the game was to begin. Rays manager Kevin Cash declined to give details as to how they came to the decision to call the game, saying: “Hopefully this is a time for us to reflect on what’s taken place and just recognize that we can do better, we need to do better and we look forward to doing that in the future.”
Said Rays pitcher Tyler Glasnow: “Obviously, the world is much more important than just sports. I think it means a lot. For so many Americans and people around the world, sports are such a big deal, and just seeing everything shut down -- it’s just to show how important it is. It’s bigger than baseball.”
The Orioles met as a team earlier in the day and decided to play. Then they had a separate players-only meeting after batting practice, where some felt they could speak more freely. Manager Brandon Hyde supported their decision not to play.
“I think what our team wants people to know on the outside is that we all bleed the same blood,” Orioles pitcher Dillon Tate said. “We are all one and we are all the same. We are all just trying to come together right now.”