Padres game postponed after Mariners vote not to play in social injustice protest
Decision comes after Milwaukee Bucks refuse to play postseason game and NBA calls off rest of night’s schedule
Professional sports in America were interrupted Wednesday, including in San Diego, as athletes initiated protests of ongoing social injustice.
The actions came in the wake of the shooting of a Black man, Jacob Blake, by police Sunday in Kenosha, Wis.
The Padres’ game against the Seattle Mariners scheduled for Wednesday night at Petco Park was postponed when Mariners players voted about two hours before game time not to play.
“Instead of watching us,” Mariners second baseman Dee Gordon posted on Twitter, “we hope people will focus on the things more important than sports that are happening.”
The Padres issued a statement early Wednesday evening that said, “We understand the Mariners decision to postpone tonight’s game and we support the players’ efforts to use their platform to bring awareness to the very serious issue of racial injustice impacting our country today.”
The game will be made up as part of a doubleheader Thursday, with the first game starting at 12:10 p.m.
Earlier, the NBA postponed all its playoff games scheduled for Wednesday in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., after the Milwaukee Bucks voted not to take the court for their game against the Orlando Magic. The Los Angeles Lakers also voted not to play as scheduled.
Blake was shot about 40 miles from the Bucks’ home arena, sparking renewed protests in that state and around the country. Some NBA players had questioned in recent days whether the league should continue with its postseason. According to an ESPN report, NBA players and executives were meeting Wednesday and there was a possibility the playoffs would be halted.
Bucks players have had multiple incidents with police brutality and racial profiling in recent years. Guard Sterling Brown sued the city of Milwaukee after he was injured during an incident with police, and former center John Henson spoke out publicly after he was denied service by a Milwaukee jeweler.
Brown read a statement Wednesday on behalf of Bucks players that included this section:
“When we take the court and represent Milwaukee and Wisconsin, we are expected to play at a high level, give maximum effort and hold each other accountable. We hold ourselves to that standard, and in this moment, we are demanding the same from our lawmakers and law enforcement.”
The team also participated in a conference call with Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes to discuss issues, including a police reform bill that is before the state legislature.
Later Wednesday, players for the Milwaukee Brewers voted not to play their baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds.
The Dodgers and Giants also decided to not play Wednesday night.
“Given the pain in the communities of Wisconsin and beyond following the shooting of Jacob Blake, we respect the decisions of a number of players not to play tonight. MLB remains united for change in our society & we will be allies in the fight to end racism and injustice,” Major League Baseball said in a statement.
Even as most baseball teams played, the Rockies’ Matt Kemp, Cardinals’ Dexter Fowler and Cubs’ Jason Heyward decided to sit out their team’s games.
“Tonight I stand with my fellow professional athletes in protest of the injustices my people continue to suffer,” Kemp, a former Padres player, wrote in an Instagram post. “I could not play this game I love so much tonight knowing the hurt and anguish my people continue to feel. In a world where we are the ones who need to remain calm while a trained professional points a gun in our face; a world where the people in uniforms who took an oath to protect us are the same ones killing us; a world where we become hashtags before we even reach our potential; we must stand together, speak out, protest, and be the change we demand, require, and need so bad. To the families who have experienced these tragedies first hand my heart breaks for you, my prayers are with you and I use my platform to speak on your behalf. I will be protesting tonight’s game in honor of all of my fallen brothers and sisters at the hands of police brutality.”
Naomi Osaka, the world’s 10th-ranked women’s tennis player, tweeted Wednesday night she will not play in her semifinal match in the Western & Southern Open today in New York.
Three WNBA games were postponed Wednesday as well as five of the six games scheduled in Major League Soccer.
As news was breaking in the afternoon that the two Wisconsin teams were not playing, Padres manager Jayce Tingler was holding his regularly scheduled news conference and said he knew of no plans for the game here not to be played.
At about the same time Tingler spoke, however, Mariners players who had been working out departed the field for a meeting. A short while later, Mariners manager Scott Servais emerged and sought out Tingler.
A series of on-field meetings ensued, including one between Padres player rep Austin Hedges, Manny Machado and Tommy Pham and Dee Gordon, Marco Gonzales and Kyle Seager of the Mariners.
The Mariners have seven Black players on their active roster, the most of any team in Major League Baseball.
“There are serious issues in this country,” Gordon posted on Twitter. “For me, and for many of my teammates, the injustices, violence, death and systemic racism is deeply personal. This is impacting not only my community, but very directly my family and friends. Our team voted unanimously not to play tonight.”
In San Francisco, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, who is Black, spoke at a video news conference alongside three of his star players.
“To not play tonight,” said Roberts, who went to Rancho Buena Vista High and lives in Cardiff, “allowed us to use our platform, to use our voices and to let the world know, the country know, how sad, how frustrated, angry we all are that, looking at the world, the way the country is right now, people are being treated this way, people of color. These conversations need to be had.
“… We’re baseball players. We love to play baseball. These guys are great at playing baseball, but we talk a lot about the game is bigger than all of us. No bigger issue right now than what’s going on. It’s not a political issue. I understand the election is coming up. This is a human being issue. We all need to be treated the same way and a black man being shot seven times in the back, we need to be better. That just can’t happen.”
The Bucks’ refusal to play Wednesday was a sharp escalation in the NBA’s fight against racism. Teams have knelt during the playing of the national anthem in previous games. Players have replaced their names on their jerseys with social justice messages and used media interviews to discuss topics like police shootings.
But video of Blake being shot in the back multiple times by a police officer reignited urgency among many in the league to refocus efforts in that fight.
Bucks guard George Hill, speaking after Game 4 of the Bucks-Magic series Monday, said the Blake shooting was heartbreaking.
“First of all, we shouldn’t even have came to this damn place, to be honest,” Hill said. “Coming here just took all the focal points off what the issues are. But we’re here. It is what it is. We can’t do anything from right here. But definitely when it’s all settled, some things need to be done. This world has to change. Our police department has to change. Us, as a society, has to change. Right now, we’re not seeing any of that. Lives are being taken as we speak, day in and day out. There’s no consequence or accountability for it. That’s what has to change.”
Lakers superstar LeBron James wrote Wednesday on Twitter: “(EXPLETIVE) THIS MAN!!!! WE DEMAND CHANGE. SICK OF IT”
Several NFL players expressed support for the Bucks on social media. “NBA is showing us how it’s done,” wrote Houston Texans wide receiver Kenny Stills, a La Costa Canyon High alumnus who has frequently knelt during the national anthem. “Time to connect with local activists to help formulate demands.”
Staff writer Jeff Sanders, the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times contributed to this report.
7:37 p.m. Aug. 26, 2020: This article was updated with additional reporting and information.
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