Joey Votto says white privilege made him 'complicit' in George Floyd's death in op-ed

Cincinnati Reds star Joey Votto has done some soul-searching in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd in police custody, and he didn’t like what he saw in himself when first told of the video.

For that, Votto blamed his privilege and pledged to do better in an op-ed titled “My awakening” published by the Cincinnati Enquirer on Sunday.

Joey Votto says he shrugged off George Floyd video, then wept

Votto opened the column recalling an African American teammate texting him to watch the now-infamous video of police officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes. He conceded that his initial reaction “was instantaneous defense of the officer.”

Once his teammate replied with “Watch the f---ing video,” Votto said he took offense and told him not to yell at him, at which point the friend apologized.

The next day, Votto said he actually watched the video and “wept.” He texted an apology to his friend, who accepted. Votto recalled growing up in a diverse neighborhood in Canada and moving through the minor leagues with black and Latino teammates, developing friendships. He said even that background did not really open his eyes to the reality of being black in America.

Now, after watching the Floyd video and the protests that have come in its wake, Votto is ready to own up to some shortcomings:

Everything inside of me wants things to go back to normal. I don’t want to protest, raise my voice, or challenge someone. I don’t want to have heated arguments, break up friendships, or challenge previous norms.

But I hear you now, and so that desire for normalcy is a privilege by which I can no longer abide. That privilege kept me from understanding the “why” behind Colin Kaepernick’s decision to kneel during the national anthem. That privilege allowed me to ignore my black teammates’ grievances about their experiences with law enforcement, being profiled, and discriminated against. And that privilege has made me complicit in the death of George Floyd, as well as the many other injustices that blacks experience in the U.S. and my native Canada.

The column ended with a pledge to no longer be silent, and “#BlackLivesMatter.”

You don’t often see a Major League Baseball star owning up to being complicit in police brutality and misunderstanding the reasons behind the protests of Kaepernick and other athletes.

Votto’s column is only the latest sign that the conversation about racial inequality is changing in the sports world. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell shocked the football world when he stated “Black Lives Matter” and admitted to mishandling player protests, and multiple MLB teams have gone as far as to call for police reform.

Joey Votto says he's making a change after the death of George Floyd. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Joey Votto says he's making a change after the death of George Floyd. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

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