MILWAUKEE >> Three Major League Baseball games were postponed today as players across the sports landscape reacted in the wake of the weekend shooting by police of Jacob Blake, a Black man, in Wisconsin.
Games between the Cincinnati Reds and Brewers in Milwaukee, Seattle Mariners and Padres in San Diego and the Los Angeles Dodgers and Giants in San Francisco were called off hours before they were set to begin.
Dodgers star Mookie Betts, who is Black, told his teammates he was sitting out and they backed him.
“For me, I think no matter what, I wasn’t going to play tonight,” Betts said.
Other MLB games had finished, were in progress or just about to start as the announcements were made.
The baseball postponements came after the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks didn’t come out on the floor for Game 5 of their first-round playoff series with the Orlando Magic this afternoon at Lake Buena Vista, Florida. NBA officials later announced that all three of the day’s scheduled playoff games had been postponed.
Three WNBA games also were called off inside the league’s bubble in Bradenton, Florida.
MLB players drove the decisions that resulted in the postponements. Others, such as Colorado outfielder Matt Kemp, opted to sit out while their teams played.
“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. Major League Baseball remains united for change in our society and we will be allies in the fight to end racism and injustice,” the league said in a statement.
Blake was shot multiple times by police in Kenosha, about 40 miles south of Milwaukee. The Blake family’s attorney said Blake was paralyzed and that it would “take a miracle” for him to walk again.
The shooting of the 29-year-old Blake was captured on cellphone video Sunday and ignited protests in Kenosha and elsewhere.
“The players from the Brewers and Reds have decided to not play tonight’s baseball game. With our community and our nation in such pain, we wanted to draw as much attention to the issues that really matter, especially racial injustice and systemic oppression,” Milwaukee and Cincinnati players said in a joint statement at Miller Park.
Said Brewers manager Craig Counsell: “The Bucks led here. The NBA led here. But our players, they went first in Major League Baseball and I’m still very proud of them for that.”
The Brewers supported that stance.
“The Milwaukee Brewers organization joins the players in their decision to not play tonight’s game. We need to pause and reflect on the events that are causing such pain and hardship to our local community and country. The entire organization is committed to putting the spotlight on racial injustice, inequality, and the necessity for change,” the team said.
Mariners infielder/outfielder Dee Gordon said the team decided unanimously to skip the game at Petco Park.
“There are serious issues in this country,” Gordon tweeted. “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.”
“Instead of watching us, we hope people will focus on the things more important than sports that are happening,” he said.
Mariners pitcher Justin Dunn tweeted: “Enough is enough.”
Dunn included a Black Lives Matter hashtag and a cartoon image of he and his Black teammates in Black Lives Matter shirts.
A sprinkling of players from the Dodgers and Giants were loosening up and the grounds crew was prepping the field at Oracle Park when the game was postponed.
Kemp, who is Black, announced on social media he would skip Colorado’s game in Arizona “in protest of the injustices my people continue to suffer.”
“I could not play this game I love so much tonight knowing the hurt and anguish my people continue to feel,” he wrote. “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.”
Mets slugger Dom Smith, a Black man who has spoken about his experiences in a predominantly white sport, took a knee for the national anthem for the first time this season. New York pitcher Robert Gsellman, who is white, wore a Black Lives Matter t-shirt instead of a uniform as he watched from the stands behind the dugout.
“Ending police brutality is more important than sports,” tweeted Pirates infielder Cole Tucker. Pittsburgh played the Chicago White Sox in the afternoon, before the Bucks became the first pro sports team to decide it would not play today.
Dexter Fowler and Jack Flaherty of the Cardinals, both Black, opted not to participate in St. Louis’ game against Kansas City. The team tweeted that it supported the decision. Chicago Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward, who is also Black, was removed from the lineup shortly before first pitch, although no official announcement was immediately made as to why.