Cubs players continue to search for answers to social injustice with sports on the back burner
“I would say this is not the end of this conversation,” Cubs manager David Ross said.
The world looked on as athletes across sports did what they thought was right. NBA, MLB, WNBA, NHL and NFL players have boycotted their respective games and practices in protest of the police shooting of Jacob Blake on Sunday in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
The fallout of the unrest came to the Cubs’ doorstep Wednesday, when outfielder Jason Heyward pulled himself out of the lineup before the team’s series finale against the Tigers in Detroit.
Heyward ultimately came to his decision after meeting with manager David Ross and addressing the team just minutes before the first pitch. He was the only member of the Cubs to sit out the game.
‘‘I told them: ‘I can’t tell you for certain what’s gonna happen tomorrow. I can’t tell you what’s going to happen the next day. But tonight I need to be a part of what’s going on in my community,’ ’’ Heyward said. ‘‘And I have full support from them — teammates, coaching staff, everyone. I encouraged them to go out there and play the game.’’
It’s clear the events not only have had an effect on Heyward but also on the Cubs’ clubhouse. Heyward isn’t only a teammate and one of three Black players on the team; he’s also one of the Cubs’ emotional and vocal leaders.
‘‘I would say this is not the end of this conversation,’’ Ross said.
Baseball remained on the back burner after the Cubs’ loss Wednesday, with Ross fighting back tears when discussing Heyward and first baseman Anthony Rizzo voicing his growing frustration after seeing the same things continuing to happen.
‘‘Just have some common sense in the world; I feel like we’ve lost that common sense,’’ Rizzo said. ‘‘It’s just so extreme one way or the other about which way you go. Just put yourself in someone else’s shoes for a second. And just see the other side one time. And whatever side you’re on, it doesn’t matter. Just have some common sense.
‘‘I’ve gone through a lot with my high school, and [expletive] doesn’t change. It’s just the fact of the matter. Politicians don’t really give a [expletive] about us. All they care about is their own agenda, and it’s just the way it is. I’m sorry to use that language and go off, but it’s upsetting.’’
Rizzo, a graduate of Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, was vocal after a shooting at the school in 2018 and worked tirelessly with students and people in the community to effect change when it came to gun control.
While Rizzo’s comments weren’t directly related to the events in Kenosha, they play an important role in the discussion of seeking change.
Despite the efforts of athletes across sports to end police brutality, slow-moving legislation has forced them to take matters into their own hands.
The attention now turns to the next steps, as athletes continue to look for ways to make a difference, raise awareness and effect change outside of their sports.
MLB had demonstrations across all 30 teams on Opening Day in support of Black Lives Matter, but it has faced scrutiny after those images were replaced by those of corporate sponsors the next day.
The juxtaposition sends a mixed message to fans and to Black players, many of whom are members of The Players Alliance, a group of 100 current and former Black pro baseball players that formed to create increased opportunities for the Black community.
What the future holds for athletes trying to be part of a bigger goal of societal change is unclear. What is clear, however, is that athletes have begun to realize their power and that what took place Wednesday will be remembered as an example of that.
‘‘I couldn’t see this coming today,’’ Heyward said Wednesday. ‘‘I’m living this. This is literally a life. Just like you guys are asking questions, I’ve got my own questions. And that’s kind of what I put on to my teammates tonight.
‘‘I think I’ve talked about it before: Sports is sometimes a distraction — and not in a bad way; it’s a good thing. But when you have causes that need to be spoken on and need to be acted on, I think it’s huge that sports [allow us] to use the platform that we have in the right way.’’