Mets, Marlins send strong message, exit field

August 28th, 2020

NEW YORK -- In a powerful show of protest, the Mets and Marlins walked off the field on Thursday after observing a 42-second moment of silence on the eve of Jackie Robinson Day.

Mets and Marlins players milled around their dugouts, stretched and played catch prior to the scheduled 7:10 p.m. ET first pitch at Citi Field, but neither starting pitcher warmed up. As game time approached, Black players Dominic Smith and Billy Hamilton led the Mets onto the field.

Standing on the mound, Mets pitcher Michael Wacha removed his cap as players from both teams lined up in front of their dugouts. Everyone observed a moment of silence in memory of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and countless others who have lost their lives to police brutality, then walked off the field in unison.

Before leaving, Marlins outfielder Lewis Brinson punctuated the protest by placing a Black Lives Matter T-shirt atop home plate.

“What people don’t understand is this is way bigger than baseball,” Smith said. “This is life. This is humanity.”

Following the lead of the Brewers, who acted in solidarity with the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks, six Major League teams postponed their games on Wednesday. Then on Thursday, a dozen MLB teams postponed their games beyond the Mets and Marlins, as well as all teams in the NBA and NHL. The Mets and Marlins did not announce plans to make up their game, though it could happen as soon as Monday on a mutual off-day.

The postponements came in the wake of police shooting Jacob Blake seven times in Kenosha, Wis., earlier this week.

“It makes me real proud that they’re standing against something that shouldn’t be happening,” Mets manager Luis Rojas said. “I stand against racism and stand against injustice.”

Mets players, who had seriously considered postponing Wednesday’s game but did not because of how late news broke about other protests around the sports world, held a meeting to discuss the issue at 3 p.m. Thursday. Many of them offered their support for Smith, who had taken a knee during Wednesday’s national anthem and spoken emotionally afterward about the toll of racial inequality, saying through tears: “Being a Black man in America is not easy.”

The message resonated in both clubhouses, where player reps Michael Conforto and Miguel Rojas began discussing options for a protest at Citi Field. Early in the process, the Mets made it clear that they did not intend to play. Rojas suggested an idea from the Marlins that was embraced by chief executive officer Derek Jeter, president of baseball operations Michael Hill and manager Don Mattingly: a 42-second moment of silence to invoke Robinson, whose breaking of MLB’s color barrier is immortalized in Citi Field’s rotunda entranceway.

“They had the idea of walking off the field at game time, and we had the idea of doing the 42 seconds,” Rojas said, “so it was a really good tribute because it came from both clubhouses.”

In the hours leading up to the protest, Rojas, Lewis Brinson and other Miami players spent time conversing with Smith and offering their support. When the Marlins eventually released their lineup, Brinson was listed in the leadoff spot for the first time this season. That allowed him to be standing near home plate during the moment of silence, so that he could drape a Black Lives Matter T-shirt atop it.

“It was a powerful message that collectively, as a group, us and the Mets both decided to do pregame,” Brinson said. “The shirt on the plate, I think, speaks for itself. The words on the shirt speak for itself. … It was the right thing to do.”

Afterward, players from both clubhouses echoed Mattingly’s urging that “this can’t be a moment, it’s got to be a movement.” Smith noted an outpouring of support not only from his peers in baseball, but also the NBA, NHL and other organizations around the sports world. Many, including Cardinals pitcher Jack Flaherty, have pledged time or money to assist Smith’s Baseball Generations foundation, which aims to help inner-city youths develop as both baseball players and human beings.

Smith and others want to ensure that their message does not wane over the coming days, weeks and months. To that end, Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen spoke late Thursday about the philanthropy of the Mets organization, as well as its recent creation of a Diversity, Opportunity, Inclusion and Training department. He urged everyone to vote in the upcoming November election.

“I can’t predict what will happen going forward,” Van Wagenen said. “What the NBA did was profound. What our players did today was a personal choice, not only for what they stand and what they believe in, but also support of their teammates and of one another. … Where that goes from here? I don’t know what the solution is from today’s events. But what I do know is that there’s motivation by a lot of people to try and make the world a better place.”