Kemp decides to sit in solidarity with protests

August 27th, 2020

Veteran removed himself from the Rockies’ lineup for Wednesday’s game against the D-backs in Phoenix as part of protests across professional sports over police killings of Black people. Kemp announced his decision via Instagram.

The movement not to play games began in the NBA, when the Milwaukee Bucks refused to take the floor for their playoff game against the Orlando Magic. The NBA eventually decided not to play the rest of the night’s slate of games. In MLB, the Brewers-Reds, Mariners-Padres and Dodgers-Giants games were also postponed for the same reason. Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward, Cardinals outfielder Dexter Fowler and Cardinals pitcher Jack Flaherty also decided not to play.

The police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wis., led to the latest protests. Players in all leagues have been involved in social justice initiatives and are frustrated such shootings continue unabated.

Kemp’s full statement read:

"Tonight I stand with my fellow professional athletes in protest of the injustices my people continue to suffer. I could not play this game I love so much tonight knowing the hurt and anguish my people continue to feel. In a world where we are the ones who need to remain calm while a trained professional points a gun in our face; a world where the people in uniforms who took an oath to protect us are the same ones killing us; a world where we become hashtags before we even reach our potential; we must stand together, speak out, protest, and be the change we demand, require, and need so bad. To the families who have experienced these tragedies first hand my heart breaks for you, my prayers are with you and I use my platform to speak on your behalf. I will be protesting tonight’s game in honor of all of my fallen brothers and sisters at the hands of police brutality." #BLM #JacobBlake #BreonnaTaylor #GeorgeFloyd #Saytheirnames

Players indicated before the game that they would have to meet, with the possibility of even deciding in concert with the D-backs to postpone. The game was played, and Kemp was in the Rockies’ dugout supporting his teammates.

Manager Bud Black and outfielder Charlie Blackmon declined to reveal exactly how the decision was made, but they described much of the team’s effort as lending a supportive ear to Kemp.

“We talked, and I'm not going to talk about what we said, but it was heartfelt,” Black said postgame. “And I have empathy. I've known Matt for a while now, right. We were together in San Diego [in 2015], and what he told me was emotional.”

Blackmon felt it was important to “understand that other people have different experiences and are going to react differently” and to “play the game that we love, and it’s one of the most inclusive games in the world.” But he said he spent time listening.

“I spoke to Matt, and Matt was hurting -- today was tough for him,” said Blackmon. “Matt did what he felt like he needed to do, and it's important for me to understand that and know where he is coming from. I'll never know exactly where he's coming from, but try my best.

“That's the most important thing, whether you’re over here, or over here, or over here, if you can't at least try and understand what your fellow man is going through. You know, if you can't put yourself in their shoes, or at least think about what's going on with them, you know, you might be part of the problem, OK?”

Prior to Wednesday's game, Black said those in all sports are trying to determine what they can do to help society.

“Things are so super-charged and tension is carrying over into sports,” Black said. “Those of us in sports, across all leagues, are thinking about this, and thinking how we can make a difference. I know that Opening Day, there were some things that we did as and industry and as MLB that I think were positive.

“And now what's going on in Wisconsin, it's super tension. The NBA is at the forefront of expressing themselves, and I think MLB, the NFL and NHL are all in big discussions, probably currently, about what we can do to help."

Trevor Story vowed before the season not to be silent on racial injustice. He said Wednesday that conversations among players are frequent and described the exchanges as “eye-opening” and “really constructive,” adding, “We need to understand and have empathy and then realize everyone has a different situation.”

Kyle Freeland added that Rockies players talk “about every single day about what's going on in our country with the social injustice, and pure madness that's really going on in our world right now.”

Story also said that it has been positive that professional athletes are involving themselves in social issues and refusing to be seen as merely entertainers.

“A lot of times, that gets lost,” Story said. “We are all more than athletes. We have feelings. We have families. We have thoughts of our own. What you do doesn’t define who you are. We’re all our own person.

“We all act differently. We all think a little differently. I guess as a fan -- because I’m a fan, myself -- you kind of lose perspective.”

Freeland wears a “Black Lives Matter” T-shirt to his Zoom interviews and says it’s personal. He is a product of Denver Public Schools and the RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) Program.

Freeland also said he discusses issues on baseball, society and life with outfielder Ian Desmond, who decided not to play in 2020 before the season began, citing social injustice, as well as the COVID-19 epidemic and the dilapidated state of youth baseball in his hometown of Sarasota, Fla.

“I’ve seen it all growing up,” Freeland said. “I had a ton of Black friends and keep in contact with a lot of them. This issue, especially in the past year with everything that’s going on, it has really taken this conversation and actions to a whole other level.

“I’m happy to see this conversation that we’re having, within our community of athletes and in the entire United States, is moving forward, and we need to keep it that way.”