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Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen spoke at length on Thursday about the ongoing systemic racism and racial injustice in the United States, touching on Dominic Smith's emotional postgame comments from Wednesday night and the culture in the team's clubhouse and organization as a whole.
"We're going to take the pulse of our players and give them an opportunity to have a voice, and we want to empower them to have a voice," Van Wagenen said during an appearance on WFAN as the Mets decided whether to play on Thursday night. "But what's going on is upsetting. What I saw from Dom Smith yesterday upsets me that he's feeling that pain. That Black people across the country are feeling the pain. It's outrageous. It really is. And the fact that we're still facing these situations at this point in our society is upsetting."
There has been a wave of striking/protesting throughout professional sports over the last two days due to racial injustice, including the recent police shooting of Jacob Blake.
After Wednesday's game, Smith -- who knelt during the national anthem before the game -- spoke about what it's like to be a Black man in America.
"I think the most difficult part is to see that people still don't care," he said as tears ran down his face. "For this to continuously happen, it just shows just the hate in people's hearts. That just sucks. Being a black man in America, it's not easy. I just wasn't there today, but I'll bounce back. I'll be fine."
Van Wagenen, speaking Thursday, said "We're a country that is a United States of America and we're not united right now."
"We want to support our players and their voices, we want to support our players particularly in this clubhouse, but we're a family. And it begins with us," Van Wagenen said. "We root for each other, we support each other, and we treat each other equally. That needs to happen beyond that clubhouse. We're committed to doing that in the organization. We have an ownership group that is committed to diversity, opportunity, inclusion, and training. That's a program that Jeff Wilpon started three months ago. Fred Wilpon has done philanthropy specifically to give opportunities to kids that would never have had a chance to get higher education to the best universities in the country. He spent millions to do that."
When it comes to real change happening, Van Wagenen said that leaders simply aren't doing enough, calling on those in corporate America and politics to do better. He also praised how the NBA has responded.
"Leadership creates change. Awareness is here," Van Wagenen said. "What the NBA did I have a tremendous amount of respect for. They continue to make a statement because their voice right now is their loudest course of action. But we need action beyond that. We need leaders of corporate America, we need leaders in politics and in society to say 'we have the ability to change. We have the ability to influence behavior as a choice.
"I'm upset about what's going on. I feel just devastated by the deaths that have happened as a result of police brutality and the reaction to police brutality. We're in a bad place. And until we get leadership and until we hold ourselves accountable, then it's not gonna change.
"Our baseball players are accountable for whether they get hits or not with runners in scoring position. I'm accountable to whether we win or lose or make the playoffs. Our jobs depend on it. Other leaders in our country need to have the same accountability when we talk about change. I'm optimistic of what exists within our clubhouse and our organization and I hope that our society at large hears these voices. But we hold our leaders accountable to make sure we hold our next generation in a better, safer place."