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Athletics' Tony Kemp Talks to Anyone Who Needs a Conversation About Race in America

Oakland Athletics infielder Tony Kemp was depressed after the George Floyd death in Minneapolis. Then he reached out on social media to talk to those who felt they needed to know more about the black experience in America. The response has been thunderous.
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Tuesday night Tony Kemp went to bed and slept for 11 hours.

Three weeks earlier, following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25, the veteran Oakland A’s infielder went to bed on back-to-back nights and couldn’t get out of bed until the middle of the next afternoon.

Those long hours abed are related and linked to a transformative two weeks in Kemp’s life.

As he battled against his personal depression, Kemp went on social media to reach out to people who wanted to know more about the Black Lives Matter movement. If someone wanted to do something, or just wanted to talk, Kemp was there to listen.

And listen and talk he has. He’s had conversations both long and short with more than 150 people, and by Tuesday night, it was beginning to show.

“I think it was therapeutic for the people I talked to, but it was also therapeutic for me,” Kemp said. “But my wife looked at me and she said I needed to take one or two days just to not reply to people. And my energy level was at zero. I had literally poured my heart into these people and those responses. I was just mentally worn down.

“I slept for 11 hours, so she was right.”

And Kemp is back and ready to jump back into the action. Until the George Floyd incident, he says “I didn’t see myself as much of an activist. But here we are.”

“I had had my days to myself of just being depressed, and then one day I was at the kitchen island, and I just decided to send out a tweet, pretty much saying `Hey, if anybody wanted to talk, I’m here.’ I figured that other people were probably feeling the same. There’s a lot of energy that goes into it.

“I’m not really a political guy. This is a right thing vs. a wrong thing.”

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Shortly after the Floyd incident, Kemp, who lives in Nashville, was on a group call on Zoom with some cousins, uncles, nephew and his brothers, all black men, all trying to make sense of where things were at. At one point, an uncle, Shawn Putman, said in passing that helping to educate people is “almost like kind of a plus-one effect, or a domino effect,” Kemp said.

“I immediately said, man that phrase is so simple, but it covers so many things,” Kemp said.

After getting his uncle’s approval, Kemp created the “+1Effect,” a campaign he went public with on Tuesday. He’s made T-shirts, the first of which he should have in his possession on Thursday. The idea is to sell them with the money going to Campaign Zero, an organization whose goal is decreasing police violence.

“If we can have this one person have a new perspective, then that person takes that forward, and they move on to the next person, that’s when you start to see a trickle-down effect of the +1Effect,” Kemp said. “And that’s how you begin to see a new movement and change in the world.

“And I think that’s what everybody wants to see.”

Kemp, who spent much of May trying raise funds to help those hit hard in Nashville and Oakland by the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic downturn, was hoping to come out of spring training with the starting second baseman’s job with the A’s.

The season was put on hold March 12, and he’s been working out most days in Nashville, trying to keep his game as finely honed as possible.

“We go to this local high school and they guys get in some work,” Kemp said. “Sometimes it feels like we’re living in The Sandlot right now.”

Follow Athletics insider John Hickey on Twitter: @JHickey3

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