Hey­ward moves for­ward

Right fielder re­turns to cubs’ lineup af­ter sit­ting out wed­nes­day in protest

Chicago Sun-Times - - CUBS BEAT - BY RUSSELL DORSEY | rdorsey@sun­times.com | @RUSS_DORSEY1

The last 48 hours have been an emo­tional ex­pe­ri­ence for the Cubs af­ter right fielder Ja­son Hey­ward joined ath­letes across sports by tak­ing him­self out of the lineup Wed­nes­day in Detroit to protest the po­lice shoot­ing Sun­day of 29-year-old Ja­cob Blake in Kenosha, Wis­con­sin.

Hey­ward was the only Cub who was un­avail­able in their 7-6 loss Wed­nes­day to the Tigers. While the team briefly dis­cussed what it should do be­fore the first pitch, Hey­ward’s en­cour­age­ment ul­ti­mately led his team­mates to play — a de­ci­sion that might have been dif­fer­ent with more time.

‘‘I don’t think there’s any doubt that we’re all on the same page as J,’’ man­ager David Ross said Fri­day. ‘‘I know the out­side nar­ra­tive may be a lit­tle crit­i­cal, but we know our heart and what’s go­ing on in here. We’re try­ing to do right by J. We’ve al­ways been try­ing to do what’s right by him. And so, yeah, I think if we would have had a game [Thurs­day], it may have been a much dif­fer­ent story.’’

‘‘I’m go­ing to con­tinue to say I didn’t feel like it was some­thing that I needed to put above our team,’’ Hey­ward said be­fore draw­ing two walks and hit­ting a home run in the Cubs’ 6-5 loss to the Reds in Cincin­nati. ‘‘I think we all had that out­look [of]: ‘We’re a fam­ily. We sup­port each other. We don’t leave any­one be­hind.’

‘‘The sup­port and love was felt on my end from them, and they know that I wanted to be out there play­ing. But they un­der­stand I had to do what I had to do.’’

The Cubs de­cided to play Fri­day — on Jackie Robin­son Day, co­in­ci­den­tally — and Hey­ward thought play­ing was the right way for him to move for­ward.

‘‘Just to be hon­est, I hadn’t thought about not play­ing to­day,’’ Hey­ward said be­fore the game. ‘‘It’s nice tim­ing. It’s one of the great co­in­ci­dences in the fact that we had an off-day and our next game is Jackie Robin­son Day on Fri­day. It works out that way. It’s a re­ally cool thing.’’

Hey­ward has been at the fore­front on the is­sues of racial in­jus­tice and po­lice bru­tal­ity, and the ef­forts he has made lo­cally and as a voice around the ma­jors hasn’t been lost on one of his younger team­mates.

‘‘I think he’s been such a strong in­flu­ence on the city of Chicago,’’ out­fielder Ian Happ said of Hey­ward. ‘‘What he’s done for the city — his con­tri­bu­tions, his self­less­ness, his time — it’s just amaz­ing to watch. He’s some­body that I look up to, and I’m just so proud of him.’’

Ath­letes across the sports land­scape have taken it upon them­selves to be ig­nit­ers for change, but teams, man­age­ment and own­er­ship groups also should play a role in th­ese ef­forts. Ver­bal sup­port and state­ments only go so far with­out ac­tion.

Hey­ward said Cubs pres­i­dent Theo Epstein reached out to him Fri­day and told him what he and the front of­fice were plan­ning. Epstein, pres­i­dent of business op­er­a­tions Crane Ken­ney and other Cubs’ front-of­fice mem­bers will do­nate their salaries from Thurs­day and Fri­day to The Play­ers

Al­liance, which will put it to­ward the Jackie Robin­son Foun­da­tion.

‘‘Those are things that they’re do­ing and tak­ing ac­tion,’’ Hey­ward said. ‘‘Theo has al­ways been that way when it’s come to this. Be­fore we got to­gether, I think I let ev­ery­one know he reached out to me. Once we got to­gether again, he was right there up front, mak­ing sure he held him­self ac­count­able, hold­ing us all ac­count­able, ad­dress­ing this to­gether and mov­ing for­ward to­gether.

‘‘I think that’s what all of us hope for as play­ers and The Play­ers Al­liance. We just hope that peo­ple have a con­ver­sa­tion, that peo­ple at least ask in­stead of just keep go­ing and act like noth­ing’s go­ing on.’’ ✶

“I’m go­ing to con­tinue to say I didn’t feel like it was some­thing that I needed to put above our team. I think we all had that out­look [of]: ‘We’re a fam­ily. We sup­port each other. We don’t leave any­one be­hind.’ ’’ ja­son hey­ward

The Cubs’ Kyle Sch­war­ber (left) and An­thony Rizzo cel­e­brate Rizzo’s home run in the first in­ning. Sch­war­ber also home­red in the in­ning.

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