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Hey, Ballplayer! You’ve always challenged the norm

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Speaking out is always been a part of the National Pastime

Cleveland Indians Baseball Player Larry Doby

This is the second in a September series highlighting some of the best Black writers and creatives around baseball. Next up is writer and journalist Karleigh Webb.

Hey, Major Leaguer. Let’s talk for a minute. I know, it’s the middle of the pennant race, the shortest, wildest race to October ever.

Oh by the way, nice mask. Please keep wearing those, and make sure all the other guys in the dugout are too, and talk to this football guys and make sure they do, too.

You see what I see, ballplayer? I’m sure you’ve checked out the protests. The seven shots in the back. The knee to the throat. The poor woman killed in her house and they still haven’t charged her killers? The marches, and the protests. That teammate taking a knee, in an empty stadium, but people across the country are seeing this.

And somebody on your twitter, and somebody else on some talk radio show, or the team broadcaster are saying, “we don’t need this” or “get woke go broke” or “I’m done with MLB and I’m done with sport.”

You see them griping about the NBA and WNBA players, wearing the slogans and emotions, and some in the cheap seats are saying, “I’m glad baseball doesn’t do that!”

And my favorite, Ballplayer?

“This is baseball. It’s not political. It’s not supposed to be ‘woke’. This challenge to tradition stuff has never been in the history of our game!”

Look back in your history, Big League. The history of the game post-war shows how much of a lie that is.

Opening Day 1947 was challenging a norm. The “gentlemen’s agreement” was a norm. Branch and Jackie challenged that norm.

Jackie Robinson stepped in that batter’s box and challenged that norm.

Larry Doby challenged that norm. So did Roy, and Willie, and Hank.

They so challenged that norm that some rabble-rouser named Martin Luther King thanked them for how they affected what he was doing to make our whole society better.

Still think taking a stand, sometimes by taking a knee, doesn’t matter, Ballplayer?

Take a look at your contract. Remember your free agent year? Don’t listen so much to the fans and those “traditionalist” sportswriters , especially the ones who gripe about how much you make. If many of these folks had their way, you’d still be under the reserve clause.

You wouldn’t want that. I doubt you’d play under a system that made some cheapskate Charlie Finley your master for life and let them basically treat you as, “a piece of property to be bought or sold.”

Curt Flood went to court and fought. Dave McNally and Andy Messersmith went back to court and fought – and won.

Yes, Ballplayer. You and others like you got together and stood up, with a little help from a new Hall-Of-Famer that the owners still hate.

You even spoke out by sitting out, even when the owners tried collusion.

You took the heat when you sat out and they cancelled a World Series over it. That’s how far you’ve gone. How radical you’ve been and had to be.

That teammate who is kneeling? He’s doing what Jackie did. He’s doing what Curt did. He’s doing what you all did three times. They are using this place, and this platform to send the message that needs sending.

Right now, there are messages that need to be heard. The message that a knee in a throat for 8 minutes is wrong. The message that seven gun shots in a man’s back in front of two kids is 7 gun shots too many. The message that “protect and serve” shouldn’t translate to “fire at will and kill”.

And there is that matter of the minor leagues, Ballplayer. You remember those. You played in those. Grinding it out for peanuts, and now the owners want to squeeze them all dry. That’s something to speak out about. How about it, Ballplayer?

You know what it means to stand up for yourself and your teammates. It is perhaps the quintessential “unwritten rule”. You stand up for your mates in that clubhouse first and foremost.

Your mate may have a higher risk of ending up dead in a routine traffic stop.

Your mate may not speak your language. You may not speak his, but you both teach each other.

What is so radical about standing with your mates on principle? It’s nothing you haven’t done before, Ballplayer.

They chide you about being “woke”? Just answer, “Check the history books. Ballplayers have never slept.”

Karleigh Webb is a midwestern girl who bleeds Kansas City Royals blue. She is a regular writer/contributor to our SB Nation companion site Outsports and a the co-host of The Trans Sporter Room podcast.

When not writing about sports, she’s participating in them as a avid runner and cyclist.