Major League Baseball has joined the movement and its players have taken action after multiple social injustices have been recorded and shared to the world.
The Oakland A’s postponed their doubleheader Thursday in Arlington, Texas after three other teams did the same on Wednesday in response to Jacob Blake, an unarmed black man, being shot seven times in the back with his kids in the car in Wisconsin on Sunday.
The latest act of police violence comes just three months after George Floyd was murdered by Minneapolis police, sparking outrage and igniting a movement across America.
The A’s were unavailable after the game on Wednesday when news broke that three MLB games, including the San Francisco Giants against the Los Angeles Dodgers, would not play in protest and to bring awareness to the issue.
The Oakland A’s did not have time to make a team decision prior to Wednesday’s game, but afterward the team made a unified decision.
Tony Kemp explained why the team was unavailable for the media Wednesday night:
“Ya, that wasn’t by design. We just had a meeting that had to happen at that time and I am glad we can get on today, kinda clear that up but it wasn’t like it wasn’t anything against you guys, I understand its our obligation to be available after every game but in that moment in time, last night, we had a team meeting that kinda overrode anything else so thats why we had to do that.”
Bob Melvin spoke to the media prior to the game on Wednesday, and said he understands and supports teams’ decisions to not play:
“We have not talked about it, this particular issue, if anybody wants to, obviously we will put our game in jeopardy at this point, like I said, I had just found out about the Reds and Brewers, maybe ten minutes ago, so you know, you support it and it’s action it’s not just talk and the NBA as well, I just found out a little while ago too, so, we will see where things go from here but at this point, I don’t think these teams have talked about cancelling tonight’s game.”
The news broke about 40 minutes before Wednesday’s first pitch, too close to game time for the Rangers and A’s to form a decision about the game. Melvin made it clear to his team that anyone who did not feel comfortable playing did not need to play, but he said it was too rushed before the team could get together, and they united in playing.
After Wednesday’s game, they spoke as a team and made a unanimous decision to not play the doubleheader on Thursday. Mookie Betts said he was not going to play after hearing about the Blake shooting, and his teammates joined behind him.
Tony Kemp, Marcus Semien, A’s hitting coach Marcus Jensen, manager Bob Melvin and general manager Dave Forst spoke about the movement after they decided to postpone the game on Thursday. The team didn’t take a vote, but there wasn’t anyone who objected the idea.
The MLB will observe Jackie Robinson Day Friday. Usually celebrated on April 15, it will take place on Friday due to the delay in beginning the season, and everything else going on.
Semien spoke about the decision to play on Wednesday, which resulted in a 3-1 A’s win, and explained how everyone was on board:
“As a group, we just felt there wasn’t enough time to make a decision yet. We went out there and played. For me personally, my mind wasn’t in a great place. It was great we still won the game but wen the game ended and we had a decent amount of conversation as a team on what do we wanna do? You know, we were seeing other sports teams, our peers doing things to shine a light on what is going on in our country, take the light off ourselves for a game and you know, see if that can make a different impact because we have been trying all kinds of things and were not seeing enough action so, this is a good start.”
The City of Oakland has never been silent when it comes to speaking up about racial justice, and Semien said that gave the A’s some assurance that they were making the right decision:
“The city we play in has a long history of fighting for what is right and that is what are trying to of here and I feel like a lot of our fans will have our backs on this one, especially when they turn on what they think will be an A’s game and its not on there. They will understand why and to take the light off us for a night and to educate yourselves on what is going on in our country and how we can make things better.”
Jensen was born in Oakland and was a first round 1990 draft pick of the San Francisco Giants as a catcher. He helped further explain the team’s objective behind not playing:
“Ya, we continue to push this through to the forefront. Knowing that there is a lot more and that baseball is secondary to some of these other social issues that are going on. So taking that to account to having a very prevalent black community it is certainly impactful…”
Kemp has been very vocal about the plus-1 effect and the importance of what they are doing. He said he was happy to see support from his team:
“You know, these aren’t comfortable conversations that we are having like this is a serious problem and you know, being able to have these uncomfortable conversations is where it starts … obviously we go out to play baseball to entertain, but also there’s another part of me that is like, we can no longer stay silent.”
Kemp said sitting out of the game Thursday was a small building block of what players want to see, and he reiterated how these are historic times for sports and he wants to be part of the change:
“One day our kids are going to look back and ask us what was going on or what ever do to help bring awareness to theses issues in the world and you know, we are gonna say, one game we decided not to play and that is going to speak volumes. I don’t think, people, our team knows the impact of how big it is right now but down the line, we we get older, we will understand the impact was monumental and you know, in the meeting I told the guys, its tough right now but I want everybody to walk out with their head shelf high and their chests out because were bringing awareness and were being activist right now and its beautiful to see.”
Forst has lived in the Bay Area for 20 years and said he has learned a lot about the history of the city of Oakland. He said guys like Semien and Jensen who grew up here have an ability to affect change and he is hopeful he can be part of that:
“I’ve talked to Marcus a lot over the last month, I am hopeful that every action that our players and athletes across the country have taken is going to have the intended effect and educate people and be a call to action. I don’t think you can look at what’s happening right now and, as Marcus said, see something like that video and not be outraged. So I think the way our players have handled themselves and gotten together, they spoke before Opening Day, as a group, they were speaking now as a group, I think as an organization, that’s exactly what you want, for your players to have a unified voice and I’m incredibly proud that they took a stance today. ”
Kemp said he is happy to put an end to silence in baseball:
“We play professional baseball and we play to entertain but theres a certain part of yourself that we can’t stay silent anymore, we have to take action. … So ya, I am proud to be a member of the Oakland A’s and you know, it’s a true blessing.”
Many players have not been able to see their families during the 2020 season due to the pandemic. Semien is lucky enough to see his family when he plays at home, but has noticed the toll on his teammates:
“Guys have their kids starting school, they had to leave, it takes a toll on the team. We just had [Chad] Pinder getting ready to have a baby, like I said, real life stuff is going on off the field, this is the game we love but we do emotionally sometimes just break down, thats where I was kind of yesterday. I pulled it together but you’re gonna have those days where this time, during the pandemic, during the racial injustices, were seeing, there a hurricane, will fires, theres so many things going on that are affecting other people and today were stepping off the field so we can shine a light on it and some other things.”
Kemp spoke with Texas Rangers outfielder and Bay Area product Willie Calhoun prior to the game on Thursday and, according to Kemp, the Rangers didn’t know:
“They had some guys showing up to the field and stuff and I kinda told them that we weren’t gonna be taking the field so I didn’t know their decision, if they were gonna stand with us or what they were gonna do.”
Semien said some of his teammates have been talking about donating their Jackie Robinson Day pay to a cause, and he believes the cause they donate to should be related to integrating the police and the community of Oakland through mentorships.
Semien grew up in Richmond, and remembers his Police Athletic League coaches, where officers coach inner-city kids. He explained they need to dig deeper and revisit programs like this, and hopes the team can raise enough funds to help that cause.
Kemp said taking the day off will give players time to really sit down and clear their heads and get mentally strong again, and hopes people see this is bigger than sports. Khris Davis and Kemp raised their fists into the air during the National Anthem during Opening Weekend, and the A’s are the only team in baseball to continue to display BLM on the mound.
Back in 2017, A’s catcher Bruce Maxwell took a knee and became the only baseball player to ever do it and still gets backlash. Kemp said:
“If I can recall correctly Bruce, called a meeting the day of, either the day before or the day of, that he was gonna take a knee at home at Oakland … You know, you saw it with Colin Kaepernick and a couple of the 49ers players, some of the NFL but you definitely didn’t see it in the MLB or NBA really. And now, so many more things have happened in the country and the protesting has been more prevalent … and you see where Bruce is coming from now. But at that time, it was a little bit harder because everybody was so focused on their job and putting their head down and going to work, and I don’t want to lose my job over this cause Colin Kaepernick did it and look at him.”
Maxwell’s famous quote is:
“It is much easier to be black when there are other black people around you.”
The Seattle Mariners have the most black athletes on their 30-man roster with 10 players. The A’s have three, which is more than some teams. Kemp explained how players are starting to use their voices to create change:
“I think players are understanding how powerful their voices can be and how many people look up to us. … It is bigger an us and its good to see teams around the league, the NHL, the NBA they are serious about this stuff and like I said, us as players can no longer stay silent and just go out and play and think that the world is fine because it’s not.”
Jensen explained how ironic it is that all of this is going on during the 100th anniversary of the Negro Leagues and explained how it sheds light on the history of this country:
“While there is supposed to be a positive light shed on the Negro leagues, the history of that, the fundamentals of what the Negro Leagues are based upon racism … so what were doing now in terms of taking a day and not playing is just a stepping stone of something else.”
Ten MLB games have been cancelled since Wednesday and sports across the nation are speaking out and trying to be the change.
The A’s are in Houston for a weekend series despite the impact tropical depression Laura has had on Texas. Chris Bassitt (2-1, 2.97 ERA) takes the mound for Oakland against Lance McCullers Jr. (2-2, 5.74 ERA) for the 6:10 p.m. PDT first pitch.