3 MLB Games Postponed Wednesday in Response to Police Brutality
Games across several sports leagues postponed in solidarity with the Milwaukee Bucks following Sunday's police brutality incident in Kenosha, WI.
On Sunday, a 29-year-old Black man named Jacob Blake was shot in the back seven times by Kenosha County (WI) police in a horrific display of police brutality. He is now paralyzed from the waist down. In response to yet another instance of police brutality, the Milwaukee Bucks chose not to play their playoff game against the Orlando Magic on Wednesday. Shortly thereafter, the Houston Rockets/Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Lakers/Portland Trail Blazers playoff series were paused as well. Additionally, three WNBA games, five MLS games, and three MLB games — including Reds-Brewers — were called off in a show of solidarity.
George Floyd was murdered by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on May 25, sparking nationwide protests which caused us to have some really tough conversations and which enacted meaningful policy change. Calls for abolishing, or at least defunding, the police have led to budgetary cuts in some locations. Other areas have instituted or strengthened certain forms of oversight. The protests that have come about as a result of the incident in Kenosha will likely, hopefully, lead to meaningful change as well.
In the days since Sunday’s horrific incident, Black men in the sports world have once again had to relive their trauma publicly in order to get white Americans to care. Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers cried, saying, “We’re the ones getting killed. We’re the ones getting shot. We’re the ones that we’re denied to live in certain communities. We’ve been hung. We’ve been shot. And all you do is keeping hearing about fear.”
Former NBA forward Robert Horry said he worries about his kids every time they leave the house. He tells his kids to comply with the police no matter what. “I don’t care what’s going on, because at the end of the day, I want you coming home to me,” Horry said. “If you have to lay down on the ground and they can kick you, beat you, at least you’re going to go to the hospital and you’re going to come home to me.”
Mets first baseman Dominic Smith described himself as being “very emotional” since Sunday. He said he “kinda wasn’t there mentally.” He shook his head, adding, “I think the most difficult part is to see people still don’t care. For this to be continuously happening, it just shows the hate in people’s heart.”
Many other Black men involved in sports have spoken out in recent days, including Red Sox outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. and Lakers forward LeBron James. James organized a meeting on Wednesday in Orlando during which the Lakers and Clippers voted to cancel the rest of the season. However, no consensus was reached, so the playoffs as of right now are expected to continue at some point. Bradley said he felt like it was “my responsibility to address” the elephant in the room with his teammates.
While Black athletes and coaches were responding to ongoing racial injustice and police brutality, white athletes were mostly nowhere to be found. The Mets played Wednesday night even as Smith kneeled; none of his teammates joined him. The Athletics’ two Black starters, Marcus Semien and Khris Davis, were not on the field getting ready for Wednesday’s game against the Rangers, but the rest of the team was. Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who played against the Tigers, pulled the “both sides” card.
It is beyond admirable that Black athletes have showed so much poise and leadership after ongoing traumatic events in their communities, but they shouldn’t have to be asked to do that. They shouldn’t have to relive their trauma every time something happens to get white people to care. It should not fall on Black people to end their own oppression. This is a dereliction of duty on the part of white people, including white players and coaches, as well as white fans and white business leaders.
This is not to say that white people haven’t done anything at all towards the goal of ending inequality, but this endeavor has largely fallen on the shoulders of Black people. White people have privilege that makes them more likely to be heard and respected, to have their concerns validated. That privilege should be put to good use.
This is also not to say that white people should be overtaking the organizing efforts. Rather, they should simply be joining these protests, including wildcat strikes, as a show of solidarity. Smith shouldn’t have been the only Met sitting out Wednesday, and he shouldn’t have been shoved in front of a camera after the game to answer questions, reliving his trauma. Pete Alonso — the face of the Mets — facing the media after the game, rather than Smith, would have been a valuable show of support, for example. [Updated this paragraph which initially said Dominic Smith sat out.]
For decades, white people have been able to turn a blind eye to ongoing racial injustice, from redlining to unequal healthcare outcomes to the entire criminal justice system. We segregated ourselves in our own neighborhoods where we only saw and talked to other white people, causing generations of white people to become oblivious to the inequalities non-whites live with on a daily basis. Thanks to social media, we can no longer remain blissfully ignorant, but our behavior needs to change as well.
It starts with developing a genuine sense of empathy. It’s a skill that is not taught nearly as well or as often as it should be, and it is the underlying cause of our decaying society. We need to truly feel when another human being is hurt, whether it is structurally or physically. We need to understand the true history of oppression in this country, not the whitewashed version taught to us in middle and high school.
We need to take an accounting of all of the little ways in which we exacerbate the larger problem of inequality. What types of media do we consume? Is it mostly created by other white people? Do our social circles mostly contain other white people? Are the representatives we vote for mostly white? Are the issues we care about most disproportionately affecting certain groups of people and benefiting white people? This is not about tokenizing non-white people, but giving them legitimate consideration and a seat at the table. These seemingly minor details affect the way we react to certain issues and they add up in a big way.
The police, clearly, are not going to reform themselves. Politicians won’t reign in police power on their own. It is up to us to apply pressure as a group to enact change, defunding or, even better, disbanding the police as an institution. We can no longer remain neutral. As Desmond Tutu said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” We need to embrace wholesale systemic change. We need to have some uncomfortable conversations with people we love. We need to be willing to take some risks that may cost us relationships, social connections, and jobs. And we need to be willing to put our bodies on the line when we join the protests in the streets. It is not just up to Black people to end racism in America; it is up to all of us.
As an addendum, this is not me speaking down to anyone, nor am I suggesting that I am somehow perfect or beyond reproach on this issue. I have as much work as anyone to do when it comes to antiracism.