Ken Williams, executive vice president of the Chicago White Sox, who has now run the team for two decades and is approaching 40 years in baseball, granted an extraordinary interview with Sox TV on Monday regarding the events of recent weeks.
The White Sox had been slow and soft in their response to recent Black deaths and the police violence that has greeted Black Lives Matters protests.
But this interview, which Williams admits only came about after he needed some time to process everything that was happening, puts the White Sox much more at the forefront of the movement.
In a gripping half-hour, Williams recounts the advice given to him by his father on how to comport himself as a Black man in America. He traces his family history back to a great-grandmother, who was a slave, who bore 10 children to as a concubine to Williams' slave owner great-grandfather; later his great-grandmother was a pioneer business owner in Louisiana, and purchased slaves in order to later free them.
With remarkable candor, and with a nod to his own station and privilege, Williams admits how simply "exhausting" it is to be Black.
Perhaps most stark and startling, Williams painfully remembers the greeting he received back at his own home upon being hired as White Sox general manager in 2000, and being crushed at having to take away his own sons' innocence in order to impart the lessons of that greeting.
Sadly, for decades Williams has been an anomaly in baseball in general and major pro sports at large, as a longtime, successful executive. This godson of 1968 Olympics hero Juan Carlos shows a clear appreciation for his mentors, including Reggie Jackson, Joe Morgan, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson in baseball, and Jesse Jackson and Muhammad Ali outside of it.
He speaks of the encouragement he's felt in recent days, whether hearing Cubs executive Theo Epstein questioning himself over his hiring practices and biases, or, honestly and wryly, seeing that "you white people can march your ass off ... I have been impressed!"
Williams is cautious in his hopes for the days to come, but honestly assesses that something feels different now, that in 56 years he can't remember people of all colors, genders and orientations coming together to shout the obvious: Black Lives Matter.
"Wait a minute, this looks different, this feels different," Williams says toward the end of his interview. "Is this the beginning of something ... is it OK to feel optimism about some of what we see?"
Referring to earlier frustration he felt over the common insult of a white woman being afraid to get in an elevator with him if he's not wearing his "executive suit," Williams hopes, with a smile, that "maybe that lady will get on the elevator with me next time."
Watch the entire interview, courtesy of the Chicago White Sox and SoxTV: