You had to be made of stone to not be moved by the scene as it unfolded.
In an empty stadium Thursday night, with murmuring, artificial crowd noise pumped in, the New York Mets took the field as the Miami Marlins prepared to bat. Then, both benches emptied, the players removed their caps and were silent for 42 seconds. Both teams left the field. The game would not be played.
As teams in professional sports leagues across the country spent the past few days refusing to play in protest of police violence against Blacks, the 42 seconds from the Mets and Marlins was particularly significant. It honored the jersey number worn by Jackie Robinson, the first Black player to take the field for a Major League Baseball team after decades of segregation.
It’s interesting, in a year when a pandemic has robbed the NHL, NBA and MLB of their full seasons and games have resumed in empty venues, that sports can still be so dramatic and powerful in so many ways. It’s also interesting and encouraging to see so much solidarity among teams in professional sports like hockey and baseball, where Black athletes make up such a small percentage of team rosters. It shows that white and Latino athletes are listening and beginning to truly empathize with their Black colleagues.
Of course, there have been the usual criticisms that occur whenever professional athletes take a stand on an issue that doesn’t involve putting a puck in a net or smacking a hanging curve into the cheap seats. The droning of “stick to sports” among curmudgeons has been strong.
But, as we’ve said in the past, it’s hard for athletes with such a platform and such strong feelings to hold their tongues when outside opinions on sports, intermingled with societal issues — including musings from the president on social media — continually invade the arenas where the games are played. Besides, if an average Joe with a personal Twitter account is allowed to voice opinions on any range of topics, shouldn’t athletes be afforded the same without being reminded they’re only viewed as valuable for one thing?
“Shut up and play” is an old and lazy argument that crumbles under the slightest scrutiny. Sure, most professional athletes are well paid to do what they do, but they’re also human. And they remind us on a national scale that people can come together, across the lines that some say define them, and do something meaningful to try and make a difference.