Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise

Baseball’s Performative Wokeness Is Fake As Hell

San Francisco Giants manager Gabe Kapler takes a knee Sunday.
San Francisco Giants manager Gabe Kapler takes a knee Sunday.
Photo: (Getty Images)

I know a fraud when I see one, and Major League Baseball is already showing us that it’s about to give an Academy Award-worthy performance this season.

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They’re actors playing a role in a movie called “Let’s All of A Sudden Act Like We Care About Equality and Black People.” The film is being produced by white America, and financed by Republican “philanthropists.”

On Monday night, San Francisco Giants manager Gabe Kapler and several members of the team took a knee during the national anthem before an exhibition game against the Oakland Athletics. The Giants’ skipper had decided to back his players if they knelt.

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“I wanted them to know that I wasn’t pleased with the way our country has handled police brutality, and I told them I wanted to amplify their voices and I wanted to amplify the voice of the Black community and marginalized communities as well,” Kapler said. “So I told them that I wanted to use my platform to demonstrate my dissatisfaction with the way we’ve handled racism in our country. I wanted to demonstrate my dissatisfaction with our clear systemic racism in our country, and I wanted them to know that they got to make their own decisions, and we would respect and support those decisions. I wanted them to feel safe in speaking up.”

It took a 44-year-old white man — born and raised in the same state where police beatthat Rodney King and the L.A. riots occurred — until 2020 to get to a place where he “wasn’t pleased with the way out country has handled police brutality,” leading to him finally deciding to do some good with his whiteness.

Wow.

By the way, Kapler’s roster only features one Black American on it, Jaylin Davis.

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As I said, actors in a movie.

It’s as if those involved with Major League Baseball, and the league itself, have made a conscious decision to try to instantly make things right after decades of doing wrong. Because on Monday night, the league’s Twitter account did something strange, it stood up for Black people. There were Black Lives Matter hashtags and comments about how peacefully protesting during the anthem has never been about the flag or the military.

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But while it came as a surprise that kneeling on the diamond and progressive tweets were taking place during the Giants and A’s game, I was left wondering why the one person who started all of this was nowhere to be found.

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You see, back in 2017, just across the bay, it was Bruce Maxwell, a former A’s catcher, and one of the few Black Americans in the league, who took a knee. As you can guess, things haven’t gone so well for him since that day. He received death threats, constant harassment, and, according to a story from earlier this month by ESPN’s Howard Bryant (“The exile of Oakland A’s Bruce Maxwell and the birth of MLB’s Black player movement”) Maxwell’s teammates “would joke with him about assassins in the box seats, how no one wanted to stand next to him during the anthem or sit next to him in the dugout for fear of being hit with a bullet intended for him.”

Former A’s catcher Bruce Maxwell kneels back in 2017.
Former A’s catcher Bruce Maxwell kneels back in 2017.
Photo: (Getty Images)
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That sh*t isn’t funny.

To be clear, Maxwell has had some legal issues since kneeling. But since this is a league that has historically welcomed back white players that have dealt with legal issues, and not the one Black dude that kneeled, I felt like it was pointless to even fully address that. My patience for unfairness has expired.

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“The season’s gonna resume. They’re going to get more fame because it’s going to look like they’re standing up for what’s right,” Maxwell told ESPN. “They’re making T-shirts and they’re showing they care, but they don’t go back to the original sacrificed person. Where was all of this then? It’s easy to talk because everyone’s talking. I was out there by myself. I’m bitter as f—-, and I’m not hiding it.”

Maxwell has been playing ball in the Mexican League since 2019.

This is who and what the MLB has been for decades, and still is — despite its antics. It will be this way forever. But don’t take my word for it, take its own.

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In 2017, Adam Jones alerted us that he was called the N-word and had peanuts thrown at him during a game against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. The incident was quickly confirmed by other Black players around the league, who had dealt with the same.

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In 2018, fans in Milwaukee gave white Brewers pitcher Josh Hader a standing ovation in his first game back, avoideding suspension after old racist and homophobic tweets of his surfaced. Two more similar incidents involving white players also occurred that season.

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Later that year, we found out that Major League Baseball donated $5000, the maximum allowable by law, to Republican Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith after she boasted to a crowd that if supporter Colin Hutchinson “invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row.”

In 2019, MLB suspended White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson for a game because he called a white player the N-word after he was hit by a pitch, leading to a scuffle. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred felt it necessary to suspend a Black player for using the one word that white people can’t say.

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Last season was Jackie Robinson’s 100th birthday. According to a report from USA Today Sports, MLB celebrated Robinson’s historic day by only having 68 African-American players among the 882 on opening-day rosters last year.

And these were examples from just the last few years.

“What is it about Black baseball?” asked former Negro Leaguer Ernest Fann in a recent interview with Deadspin.

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“The only answer that I see that makes sense is that when God put entertainment on this Earth, He put it for all races to enjoy — men, women, children, boys, and girls. Why is it that the white man took control of baseball and said that’s for them? I’ll get my answer one day.”

If a 77-year-old Black man is still asking that question in 2020, about the game he played — and still loves — then it’s even more proof that what we saw on Monday was a complete joke.

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Baseball’s relevance is wrapped in the fact that it’s the last of America’s three major sports where white people are the majority. From the field, to the dugout, to the managers, to the press box and front offices, it’s a game that refuses to let any other race have a substantial stake, while clinging to the days when white supremacy was a blatant fixture of this country’s culture.

Now, there will be some who will see MLB’s recent posture and believe the league is genuinely trying to make a change. Unfortunately, I don’t have the luxury of holding out hope for an organization that has proven repeatedly, for decades, that it doesn’t care about people who look like me.

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Besides, I’ve seen this movie before.

Spoiler alert: By next season, all of this “progress” will have been halted by the same forces who pushed for it when it was convenient.

Saginaw Native. Morehouse Man. Syracuse (Newhouse) Alum. 2019 NABJ Award Winner. 2016 PABJ Journalist of the Year. I only eat my wings lemon-peppered. And I like brown liquor & brown women.

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