Phils, Nats players choose not to play finale

August 28th, 2020

The Phillies gathered at their hotel just outside Washington, D.C., on Thursday afternoon to discuss that night’s series finale against the Nationals at Nationals Park.

Some players did not want to play. They believed they should postpone the game to refocus the country’s attention on police brutality and social injustice following Sunday’s shooting of a Black man by a Kenosha, Wis., police officer. Jacob Blake, 29, was shot seven times in the back. He survived, but he is paralyzed from the waist down. On Wednesday, six Major League Baseball teams elected not to play. The NBA, WNBA and MLS postponed games, too.

“It’s tough,” Phillies first baseman said. “It’s tough to see some of these guys go through things and have these thoughts that I’ve never had and never really thought about having. They’ve never been on my radar, some of the things that affect strong Black men and women across this country on a daily basis.”

The Phillies’ meeting lasted 30 to 40 minutes. It got emotional.

In the end, they elected not to play. Hoskins, who is his club's players’ union representative, called Phillies manager Joe Girardi around 2 p.m. ET. Girardi called Nationals manager Dave Martinez about 15 minutes later. Martinez told Girardi that he supported the Phillies. He then spoke individually with his players before they held their own meeting at the ballpark around 4 p.m. The Nationals also agreed not to play.

“I’ve heard people ask: 'What do the players want?'” 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.”

“Things have to change,” Martinez said. “You guys know how I feel about it. There’s ugliness in this world. It needs to be fixed. It needs to start now.”

These were players-only decisions. Neither Martinez, Girardi nor any members of the Nationals or Phillies front offices had any input in the decision not to play. But Martinez and Girardi made it clear that they supported their players.

“I hear from the players, how they struggle knowing that we’re trying to do our best to go out there and play this game, but there’s things going on in this world that they can’t put aside,” Martinez said. “It’s time to speak up. I think that’s the message we’re trying to send out -- we’ve got to speak up. We’ve got to change now. It ain’t going to get any better if these guys don’t speak up and we don’t speak up.”

“In this world, I’ve always believed that there are two things you can’t live without, and it has nothing to do with food and water. It’s love and hope,” Girardi said. “I don’t think we’re doing a good job in our country giving that to everyone. I think that needs to be the focus here. I think that’s what baseball, the Philadelphia Phillies are standing up for. People need to have love and hope, and listen.”

Professional athletes have platforms to share their thoughts and opinions to the world. They are taking advantage of this opportunity.

“With that comes the territory of standing up for what you believe in and doing what’s right,” Nationals infielder said. “At the end of the day, justice, equality for any and everybody that’s been done wrong.

“It’s a brotherhood, supporting each other. More than anything, it’s not about what you look like, your race or where you come from. 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, as [Hoskins] said, it’s about humanity and respecting each other and things that we tell our kids -- treat others how you want to be treated. I think it means a lot because, yes, we play baseball, we love baseball, but baseball doesn’t define us.”

Both teams expect to play Friday, with the Phillies hosting the Braves in Philadelphia and the Nationals playing the Red Sox in Boston. Thursday's game has been rescheduled as part of a doubleheader on Tuesday, Sept. 22, beginning at 3:05 p.m. ET.

The Players Alliance announced that its players will donate their salaries from Thursday and Friday to combat racial inequality.

But right now the players just want to be heard. They want people to listen.

“I heard something from Charles Barkley today that I never even thought of,” Girardi said. “He expressed that he’s exhausted. He’s exhausted at having to answer questions about social injustice. Now that’s not something that necessarily comes across my plate every day, but it does others. I think it’s really important that we hear from everyone and what they have to deal with. People are just asking to be heard so there’s change made.

“We want this to be the best place in the world to live. And unless we do something about it, it’s not going to be. And I don’t think that’s how this country was founded.”