Votto vows to listen, learn, speak out on injustice

June 8th, 2020

Joey Votto will no longer be silent.

That was the message in the Reds’ first baseman's guest column in the Cincinnati Enquirer on Sunday, in which he explained his prior unwillingness to fully listen, learn about and acknowledge the racial injustice taking place every day in the United States and his native Canada.

"[I] witnessed glimpses of racism that should have opened my eyes to the realities of being a black man in America," Votto wrote. "My teammates, my friends, the ones that I shared great times with, faced prejudices that I never did and when they shared their experiences ...

"I did not hear them."

Votto described how he recently read "A Long Walk to Freedom," Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, and came away with great admiration for Mandela's sacrifice and commitment to the cause of racial justice in South Africa. Votto went on to lament that despite reading that book a week prior to the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25, his initial response to a text from an African American teammate to watch the video of Floyd dying was not sympathetic.

"My instincts [before watching the video] provoked an instantaneous defense of the officer," Votto wrote. "Perhaps the man was resisting arrest? Maybe there is a story the video isn’t telling?"

But the next day, Votto watched the video and wept.

Votto closed his piece by vowing to "no longer abide" by a desire for normalcy that has kept him from truly hearing his black teammates' grievances arising out of racial discrimination and prejudice.

"Only now am I just beginning to hear," he wrote. "I am awakening to their pain, and my ignorance. No longer will I be silent. #BlackLivesMatter."