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Black Lives Matter, And The Sports World Won’t Let You Forget It

Hey guys. Dodger girl is back. Before the events of the past week, I was ready to come in scorching hot with a histrionic take about how, even though we’re halfway through the season and the Dodgers are a first-place team in their division (and, for that matter, in all of MLB), there is still MUCH to worry about. I was 100% prepped for a scathing piece about how one thing or another would be their downfall in yet another squandered playoff run, whether that thing was hitting with runners in scoring position (they aren’t even that bad at this, statistically speaking), Kenley blowing saves (though he is certainly better than in years’ past), their lack of pitching depth (that isn’t even a thing), their lack of hitting depth (what?), and even the fact that them not losing a series yet means they haven’t been tested enough when the going gets rough (I know, I know. Stay with me). But none of that feels really important right now. Sometimes things in life are bigger than baseball, bigger than sports, bigger than us as individuals. And right now feels like one of those times.

Jon SooHoo / Los Angeles Dodgers

Let me just start off by saying that I am writing this knowing full well that I, a 23-year-old white girl who lives with too many forms of privilege to count, am by no means qualified to speak on behalf of those who have suffered far more than myself for just the color of their skin. I do, however, think it needs to be said that those who are upset by players in the NBA, WNBA, MLB and NHL for refusing to play their respective sport in the name of racial justice do not fully grasp the gravity of this moment. This is not a political movement; this is a humanitarian one. For trolls on social media to be more angered by athletes not playing a game than by an unarmed black man being shot in the back seven times is both highly disturbing and unacceptably ignorant.

As I sit at my laptop, I wonder how when athletes speak up at a press conference, or take a knee during the national anthem, or march in the streets or choose to not play a game or two, it is deemed as “unprofessional” and “disrespectful.” But when looting and rioting occurs, that’s not OK either. Sometimes it seems that there is nothing these athletes—and people in general—can do to make their voices heard and to incite much-needed change, and even the various forms of peaceful protesting we have been seeing since the death of George Floyd has not opened the eyes of a certain sector of this country. If not these tactics, what would work? What would get the point across that black lives matter, have always mattered, will always matter? Change is slow, I understand, but how is it 2020 and the racism that has always gripped the United States continues to rear its ugly head in worse ways than ever? I grapple with all of these questions, and I can think of no logical answer.

Julio Aguilar / Getty Images

With respect to social justice issues, MLB often lags behind its competitors, particularly those of the NBA and WNBA. Jackie Robinson Day was celebrated across the Major Leagues on Friday (Rest in Peace to Jackie himself, Chadwick Boseman. Such a tragic loss.), and Jackie is often the stand upon which the baseball powers that be hang their hats. Baseball broke the color barrier, right? Nice try. The Brooklyn Dodgers called Robinson up to the major leagues in 1947. By my count, that’s over 70 years ago, and while that certainly was a momentous occasion that should be recognized every year, it is time to be more aggressive in continuing to move the needle of progress forward. The NBA playoffs are going on right now, and players are wearing messages on the backs of their jerseys that reflect the need for justice. The importance of calling elected officials and voting in November as vehicles for change has been echoed by players, coaches and staffers alike across sports. Major League Baseball can’t afford to sit idly by anymore, while the players take action into their own hands. As with our elected officials, change must come from the top down, and that starts with Rob Manfred making it clear that MLB will not tolerate hate, racism or injustice of any kind, and will support its athletes in whatever they do to relay that message to the masses. While we are starting to see MLB and the players themselves come together over the issues at hand, more can always be done, and right now, more HAS to be done. After all, it was Jackie Robinson himself who once said, “There’s not an American in this country free until every one of us is free.” Jackie was right, and MLB’s response to the intolerable events of the last few months will determine whether or not this message has truly resonated.

Right now, I’m struggling to come to terms with everything that has happened in this country recently, and it pains me to see how people are still being discriminated against, brutalized, and murdered for being black. I cannot begin to fathom what it must be like to fear for your life while walking down the street, or while getting into your car or even while sleeping in your bed at night. None of it really makes sense to me, and I pray that the justice that is long overdue will finally, FINALLY, be served in spades. But I do see a light at the end of the tunnel: I see Mookie Betts, Lebron James and other athletic superstars using their mega platforms to create systemic change. I see Roger Goodell and the NFL apologizing to Colin Kaepernick for not listening to him in 2016. I see games being postponed across sports in solidarity of those who have suffered and died at the hands of racism. To put it simply, I see the sports community doing what those we have elected to lead our nation have not and are not doing—I see players, coaches and fans alike standing up for what’s right. And that makes me a little more hopeful that change is here, whether people like it or not.

@Lakers / Twitter

So yeah, my angsty Dodgers write-up will have to take a back seat for right now. As passionate as I am about the Dodgers and their winning habits, none of that seems to matter right now. What matters is that my black friends, colleagues, peers, brothers and sisters can walk through this world without fearing for their lives, or else being made to feel like second class citizens just because of their skin color. Black Lives Matter. ALL Black Lives Matter. And if you are looking at these athletes in disgust for using their platforms for positive change while ignoring the not-so-insidious issues plaguing this nation, then you are part of the problem, not the solution.

@Marlins / Twitter

Cover photo courtesy of @Mariners / Twitter

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Heather Barette View All

I am a recent UC Santa Barbara graduate and currently on the writing and marketing teams for The Bullpen. My background is largely in sports broadcasting and social media marketing, and I have been a passionate Dodger fan since I was little. I am very excited to be a part of this baseball media conglomerate, and I can't wait to take The Bullpen to the top!

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