Last Sunday, Joey Votto entered the conversation of injustice against African Americans with an opinion piece in the Cincinnati Enquirer. He reflects on himself as someone who has been surrounded by people of a different race for most of his life, yet is just now beginning to see and hear the pain that is plaguing people of color in our society. The idea that someone like Votto has gone his entire life not fully understanding the effects of his own white privilege reinforces that so many of us, myself included, have been ignorant to this idea as well.
I grew up in a mostly white neighborhood, attended mostly white schools and have mostly white friends. There is no chance that my experiences have given me the perspective required to understand the racism that still exists in our world. It starts as genuinely not knowing it exists. I learned about Martin Luther King Jr. in grade school and just assumed that was then and that everything is better now. But at a certain point, I knew it was there. And for too long now I have not wanted to know. I have pretended to not see or hear it and my privilege has allowed me to do that.
Joey says, “I don’t want to protest, raise my voice, or challenge someone. I don’t want to have heated arguments, break up friendships, or challenge previous norms.” I don’t want to do these things either. But if we do not, African Americans will keep being discriminated against, terrorized and in instances like George Floyd and countless others, killed. The idea that inaction is just as bad as a racist act is a tough one to accept. But rejecting that idea and hoping for normalcy has proven to not be enough.
The other night I watched ESPN’s recently released documentary on the late Bruce Lee. Before that, I had no idea how much race had played a part in Lee’s life, just another example of my ignorance. One particularly moving scene showed an interview in which Lee was asked if he thought of himself as Chinese or North American. His response was both extremely powerful and relevant to where we find ourselves now, 50 years later.
“You know what I want to think of myself? As a human being… Under the sky, under the heaven, there is but one family. It just so happens that people are different.”
Joey Votto has put himself out there and admitted that he still has a lot to learn, despite his unique life experiences. This makes me proud to be a Reds fan and a Votto supporter, but I know that that feeling alone is not enough to bring about change. Each and every person that opens up, whether they are a celebrity, athlete or your next-door neighbor, is making a difference. I would encourage everyone to read, listen, and be open to learning more and engaging in a dialogue about this uncomfortable topic.
Editors note: We’ve decided to add a few external pieces to this to reflect just what some African Americans in the game have shared over the last few weeks.
This past week on Momentum’s Youtube channel, Chloe Valdary moderated a discussion with four current professional players. Delino DeShields (Cleveland outfielder), Justin Dunn (Seattle pitcher), Nick Heath (Kansas City outfielder), and Hunter Greene (Reds pitching prospect). They discussed various issues, life experiences, and more over the span of an hour in the video below.
On June 2nd at The Athletic, former big leaguer Doug Glanville moderated a panel discussion that included former big leaguers Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, Dontrelle Willis, Torii Hunter, and LaTroy Hawkins. It’s an incredible, powerful read. If you are a subscriber to The Athletic and missed it, you should take some time to read it.
Torii Hunter shared a story in which the police drew their guns on him as he answered his own door at his home and walked around the home at gunpoint until he could get his I.D. to show that he lived in the home.
Reds outfielder Nick Senzel has been very outspoken on Instagram for change, mostly in his stories, over the last few weeks. But he did share this on his regular feed.
On Wednesday night Major League Baseball held the first round of their draft. All thirty teams, represented by someone in the front office – for the Reds it was President of Baseball Operations Dick Williams – had a Black Lives Matter placard in their hands to begin the event that was shown on both ESPN and MLB Network. Those placards remained on display throughout the draft on the desks of everyone. Baseball was quiet on this front early on, but eventually did release a statement, and has, like many other leagues, set out to raise, fund, donate to organizations and charities that combat racism.
The execs kept the placards on display in their offices throughout the draft, and on Thursday announced a combined donation of $311,000 to five charities that support and fight racial justice – the NAACP Legal Defense Fund; the Equal Justice Initiative; Color for Change; Campaign Zero; and the Jackie Robinson Foundation.
Antonetti coordinated the charitable effort. The average donation from the execs was more than $10,000. MLB matched the overall $311,000 contribution, as did Dodgers chairman Mark Walter. Other owners matched the individual donations, bringing the total amount raised to more than $1 million.
Outside of baseball we’ve seen some stories come in, too. Former NBA player and now assistant coach for the Oklahoma City Thunder wrote about his experience just over a decade ago earlier this week at The Players’ Tribune titled “That Could Have Been Me”, a story of when he was stopped while riding his bike because he reportedly fit the description of someone who had just robbed a house.