Scott Servais called it a “historic day” and a “day of action” when his Mariners team voted unanimously to not play on Wednesday in San Diego and voiced strong support for that decision on Thursday in the team’s first public comments about the situation.
The Mariners have 10 Black players on their 40-man roster and have been united in their support for the Black Lives Matter movement and calls for racial equality in recent months.
“Sports are a privilege, and we get the opportunity to play an awesome game,” Servais said in an online media session prior to Thursday’s doubleheader with the Padres. “We get paid for it, and these guys are the best in the world and they get to compete on this level every day. But it’s a privilege of a functioning society, and our players made a decision yesterday to take a step backward and back off the gas here, to create some awareness about something that we need to change.
“We need change, and again, I commend our players for continuing to do the right thing. The discussions we had yesterday as a team were very meaningful. We continue to learn from each other, educate each other, and that’s what this is all about.”
Servais said several players talked to him individually early Wednesday about the situation in the wake of the Jacob Blake shooting in Kenosha, Wis., and a group of six or seven players met with him again later in the day. The club gathered as a team to discuss their choices and voted as a group to sit out Wednesday’s game, which would end up being rescheduled as part of Thursday’s twin bill.
Will the statement have any lasting impact, and is there anything different about the current push for racial equality?
“Only if there is change,” Servais said. “I think people don’t understand what change looks like, because I don’t think everyone is quite aware yet of how you can make change, whether it’s your ability to register and go out to vote, to do different things to allow yourself to have a voice and educate family members, friends, people that are around you.
“I think it’s really important that people try to understand that we all grew up and were raised in different environments. So to try to empathize with people when you’ve never walked in their shoes is difficult, but that’s how change happens.
“You have to listen, you have to grow as a person, and hopefully those around you who are close to you, you can help them grow. And you look back and say, remember when this happened? If it was George Floyd, if it was Jacob Blake, there were things going on in society, and professional athletes have a platform and decided to voice their opinions and take a step back. I keep my fingers crossed that we look back on that, but it’ll only happen if there is change.”
Servais acknowledged that he himself has changed since the George Floyd incident in Minneapolis in May.
“Having conversations with our players at that time, at that point I quickly came to the realization I need to learn a lot about what's happened in our country, on educating myself,” he said. “It's really hard to help others or lead others when you're not educated yourself. ... I think I’m much better prepared than I was five, six months ago.”
Servais is well aware that his players will receive criticism for their action, but he praised the Mariners organization for its support and said he’s not worried about any negative response.
“There's one thing about our group,” he said. “We're very strong, very confident. Whether it's young players or guys who have been in the league a little bit, they're very strong in their beliefs and doing the right thing. There’s going to be backlash with anything you do in today's society, with all the outlets that are there for people to express their opinion. That's just the world we live in.
“But these are not just athletes. These are people. These are people that are afraid, they're worried about loved ones, family members in different parts of the country. As many of you know, I'm from Wisconsin, and to see what's happened there, it’s been upsetting. How things progress from here will tell a lot about the people in those areas, and how they make adjustments along the way to make sure they're doing the right thing. I'm not worried about our players at all in that regard.”