The Texas Rangers and Oakland Athletics did not take the field on Thursday night. Instead, the Oakland A's decided as a team to sit out in protest of the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wis.
The A’s talked as a group after Wednesday’s 3-1 win over the Rangers, and then again on Thursday. According one of Oakland's team leaders, shortstop Marcus Semien, no actual vote was taken among the players. However, there was an overwhelming conviction that not playing was the correct decision.
“What do we want to do?” Semien said. “We’re seeing other sports teams, our peers, doing things to shine a light on what’s going on in our country. (Let’s) take the light off ourselves for a game and see if that can make an impact, because we have been trying all kinds of things, and were not seeing enough action.
“So, this is a good start. Today, we made that decision. We made that decision last night. Today we confirmed it. Everybody was on board.”
Other A's players, including Tony Kemp, publicly praised the Oakland organization for its support while they address racial injustice and its effects around the country. Kemp was one of many athletes who helped generate dialogue about race in America in the wake of the killing of George Floyd during the COVID-19 shutdown.
On the flip side, the Rangers arrived at Globe Life Field on Thursday with the expectation that they were going to play a game. The Rangers had internal discussions before both games, on Wednesday and Thursday, but decided as a group they were comfortable with stepping on the field to play. However, they were prepared to sit out if the A's decided not to play.
"We respect the A's decision," said Rangers third base coach Tony Beasley. "We came to play baseball today—we were prepared to play, and we're not playing, but there's no disrespect to the A's for their decision.
"I don't think that anything should be held against us (either) if we came to play the game of baseball. It had nothing to do with whether or not we are in or out on how we feel with what's going on in our country, and the temperature of society right now."
Beasley is one of five African Americans in the Rangers clubhouse—he and Callix Crabbe are the two Black Rangers coaches and outfielder Willie Calhoun, Taylor Hearn and Demarcus Evans are the only Black players on the their 40-man roster.
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With the current events centering around the Black community, Calhoun and Hearn are both thrust into the spotlight. Neither player has a ton of major-league experience. Calhoun is just entering his first season as an everyday player and Hearn has logged only a handful of big-league innings.
"Everyone's different, and each individual has to follow their heart, and they have to do what they're convicted by," Beasley said. "I feel for Willie and Taylor. They were kind of put in a situation where they feel like they have to make decisions. Not necessarily, based on something that they've thought out or what they're convicted by."
The NBA's Milwaukee Bucks began this trend of striking on Wednesday afternoon, followed by the rest of the NBA, and other leagues followed suit in some form over the past 24 hours. Beasley said the solution is not so cut-and-dry.
"I think if we're really going to be realistic about things, in each and every clubhouse, no one's going to be 100 percent unified on any decision that's made," Beasley said. "That's the reality that we're in; that's the society that we're living in at the time. However, I was okay with playing. I didn't push the issue. I'm African American. I'm Black. I didn't come in and say, 'Hey we shouldn't be playing the game today,' and neither of our African American or Black players did that. So we came to the ballpark today with the expectation of playing baseball."
However, Beasley wasn't afraid to speak about his issues with racial injustice and systemic racism in the country. Yes, Beasley arrived at Globe Life Field expecting to play baseball, but it doesn't mean he isn't affected by what the Black community is currently experiencing.
"I'm very broken by it,” he said. “I'm not happy with things that are happening in society. But at the same time, we have to deal with those things. We have to have the right conversations, and we have to do things that are going to have an impact. So we're trying to have conversations. Things don't happen overnight. This is an issue that's been in our country for 400 years; it's not going to change overnight, and I'm well aware of that. But we just have to make sure that each and every day we chip away at it. It's not just one day. It's not just—if we don't play today and then we play tomorrow… it's not just one day. We have to continue to chip away at this issue; we have to continue to have the necessary conversations, and hopefully affect change, long term.
“And so, I think maybe we're dealing with it differently than someone would perceive that we should. But I know that inside this clubhouse, we're dealing with the issues with the players that we have. And the ideas and the concepts that have transpired in this environment, in this clubhouse.”
The Rangers are set to welcome the Los Angeles Dodgers for a three-game series beginning on Friday, which is also when Jackie Robinson Day will be celebrated this season. The commemoration is usually held on April 15, the anniversary of when Robinson played his first MLB game in 1947. Instead, Friday marks the 75th anniversary of the date Robinson first met with Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey about breaking baseball’s color barrier and signing with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Friday is also the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream Speech,” which he delivered at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., in 1963.
Robinson’s No. 42 is retired all throughout baseball and every player wears his number on Jackie Robinson Day in honor of him.