Joey Votto, Amir Garrett, Phillip Ervin and Alex Blandino all took a knee prior to Tuesday’s preseason home game against the Detroit Tigers. The game took place without fans in preparation for the start of the MLB season scheduled to begin Thursday, shortened to 60 games due to COVID-19.
Votto, a former MVP and 6-time All-Star who has spent his entire career with the Reds after growing up in Canada, wrote an op-ed after George Floyd was killed while in custody of Minneapolis police. He wrote that his privilege had made him “complicit” in Floyd’s death and in racial injustice.
Garrett, one of MLB’s relatively few Black players and a prominent member of the team’s bullpen, also began speaking up after Floyd’s death, saying he previously felt he could be “pushed out of the game” for protesting racial inequality.
Giants players protested Monday
Tuesday’s demonstration was the second of its kind since preseason games started. San Francisco Giants manager Gabe Kapler joined players Mike Yastrzemski, Austin Slater, Jaylin Davis and Antoan Richardson in taking a knee on Monday prior to an exhibition against the Oakland A’s.
The protests of social injustice and police brutality are part of a larger movement that will have an increased presence upon the return of sports across all U.S. leagues. The George Floyd killing and the ensuing race reckoning in the United States has amplified the calls for social change that have extended into the sports world.
Where leagues were once either neutral or actively opposed to player protests, they now stand in support. MLB responded to an angry fan on Monday by voicing its support for the protest by Giants players.
It has never been about the military or the flag. The players and coaches are using their platforms to peacefully protest.— MLB (@MLB) July 21, 2020
More protests to come
After Thursday’s MLB opening day, the WNBA and NBA are both scheduled to resume play with social justice a central theme of their return.
WNBA players will honor Breonna Taylor, the 26-year-old Black woman who was shot and killed in Louisville when police barged into her home on a no-knock warrant on March 13.
NBA players will have the option to choose from a list of social justice slogans on their uniforms when the league begins on July 30, but they won’t have the option of using names of victims of violence on their jerseys.
Pregame demonstrations should be expected in both leagues. The WNBA tips off on Saturday while the NBA tips off on July 30.
Meanwhile, NFL players will reportedly have the option to include names of victims of police violence on their helmets if the league is able to resume play this fall.
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