‘Shut up and play’? not here

Cubs have been given free­dom to sup­port BLM, fight in­jus­tice

Chicago Sun-Times - - CUBS BEAT - Russell Dorsey

The Cubs have been out in front of Ma­jor League Base­ball’s ef­forts to sup­port the Black Lives Matter move­ment and stand with their play­ers and coaches to fight racial in­jus­tice and in­equal­ity.

On Fri­day, Cubs play­ers and coaches wore T-shirts that read ‘‘Black Lives Matter’’ dur­ing pregame warmups and sent out a state­ment on Twit­ter with the sig­na­ture of ev­ery player.

Sev­eral pri­vate con­ver­sa­tions among play­ers, coaches and staff be­hind the scenes have ac­com­pa­nied the Cubs’ pub­lic dis­plays of sol­i­dar­ity, along with their com­mit­ment to con­tinue to be part of the change as an or­ga­ni­za­tion and as in­di­vid­u­als.

‘‘Our con­ver­sa­tion was a fam­ily con­ver­sa­tion; it was very real and gen­uine since the start of this,’’ out­fielder Ja­son Hey­ward said. ‘‘One of the first days of sum­mer camp, [Cubs pres­i­dent] Theo [Ep­stein] wanted to get ev­ery­one to­gether and be­gin this di­a­logue. We’ve all been gen­uine, we’ve all been open and we’ve all wanted ev­ery­one to speak; we all wanted to hear ev­ery­one’s feel­ings on it.

‘‘We have peo­ple on our team right now that have been a part of a cer­tain strug­gle that is go­ing on in the world and go­ing on in our coun­try that no one wants to miss out on sup­port­ing them.’’

Hey­ward’s voice as one of the Cubs’ two Black play­ers is needed in such con­ver­sa­tions, but first base­man An­thony Rizzo knows he also plays a big role as the face of one of the most pop­u­lar teams in the ma­jors. He is vo­cal about the Cubs’ de­sire for last­ing change.

‘‘As the leader of this team, I want to hear ev­ery­one,’’ Rizzo said. ‘‘That was the main thing: to come to­gether. We all did that pretty eas­ily. It was a re­ally grow­ing con­ver­sa­tion for ev­ery single one of us play­ers . . . . It was a big grow­ing mo­ment for us. I’m proud of that, and I’m proud of the de­ci­sions we’re mak­ing.

‘‘The one com­mon thing is that we’re not mak­ing this about politics. We’re mak­ing this about what’s right, just like Ja­son said. We’re stand­ing up for what we be­lieve is right.’’

But even with more play­ers feel­ing em­pow­ered to take a pub­lic stand against racism and show sup­port for Black Lives Matter, there are still de­trac­tors echo­ing the ‘‘stick to sports’’ mantra. Ep­stein has said that sen­ti­ment will have no mean­ing at Wrigley Field.

‘‘We’ve been on record as say­ing we don’t want our play­ers to stick to sports,’’ Ep­stein said. ‘‘We want them to be them­selves, we en­cour­age them to be en­gaged cit­i­zens and we see them as peo­ple and cit­i­zens, not just as play­ers.

‘‘ ‘Shut up and play’ is not go­ing to be the way it’s gonna be around here. That’s just the way it is. That’s a fact.’’ ✶

DAVID BANKS/AP

Mem­bers of the Cubs and Brew­ers wear ‘‘Black Lives Matter’’ T-shirts while chat­ting be­fore the sea­son opener Fri­day at Wrigley Field.

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