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Professional sports teams continue to test the patience of their fans in seasons already truncated by the COVID-19 pandemic with political messaging and stunts designed to show support for social causes.
Fans who tuned in Thursday night to watch the New York Mets and Miami Marlins play some baseball as a respite from the non-stop violence, rioting, and looting were again disappointed when players chose not to play.
The Mets and Marlins took the field, had a 42-second moment of silence, and then walked off.
The only thing left on the field: a Black Lives Matter shirt.pic.twitter.com/JyckWkGQai
— Complex Sports (@ComplexSports) August 27, 2020
After the teams took to the field to begin, both dugouts emptied as all players removed their caps and hung their heads in a 42-second moment of silence. Afterward, the two teams waved their caps at each other and left the field, choosing instead not to play.
Disappointed fans were nevertheless free, then, to switch channels or get online to watch President Donald Trump’s acceptance speech during the fourth and final night of the Republican National Convention. In fact, widespread sports boycotts were probably very much welcomed Thursday night by Trump and the Republican Party, as The Federalist’s Sean Davis noted:
As for the Mets-Marlins game, perhaps fans should have expected it.
“After other games around baseball were postponed to protest social injustice, the Mets were late to take the field Thursday and never submitted a lineup to the public or the umpires,” The Associated Press reported.
Also, the starting pitchers for both squads never engaged in any warm-ups, and both teams loitered around their respective dugouts in uniforms ahead of the 7:10 p.m. scheduled start time. The National Anthem played and all players and coaches stood, the AP noted further.
Dominic Smith, a black outfielder for the Mets who cried Wednesday night when talking about the police-involved shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin on Sunday, led the New York squad onto the field.
After players took up their positions, backups and coaches came out of their respective dugouts and stood in silence for 42 seconds.
At the end, “each team doffed caps towards the other side before returning to their clubhouses, leaving only” a Black Lives Matter t-shirt draped across home plate, the AP said.
“The words on the shirt speak for themselves, just having it in the center of everything, just knowing that both teams are unified and that we agreed to do this,” Marlins outfielder Lewis Brinson, Miami’s leadoff hitter who stood near the batter’s box for the moment of silence, said. “And it was the right thing to do.”
“It really touched all of us in the clubhouse, just to see how powerful his statements were, how emotional he was,” Mets outfielder Michael Conforto, who is white, said.
“He’s our brother, so we stand behind him and we stand behind (Black Mets outfielder) Billy (Hamilton). All the players who stand up against the racial injustice, we stand behind them. And that’s what you saw tonight,” he added.
Reps from both teams met Thursday afternoon to plan out the demonstration. Marlins player rep Miguel Rojas came up with the idea of taking the field, then walking off.
“We wanted to do something special,” Rojas said. “We wanted to do something different.”
If some players get their way, such displays could become a permanent part of the game.
The Mets-Marlins protest was held a day before MLB’s annual Jackie Robinson Day observation, which is normally held April 15 but was postponed due to the suspension of the season over coronavirus.
“It needs to be an ongoing thing,” Brinson said. “It can’t just be one day out of the baseball year that we bring light to everything.”
It’s not clear how well ongoing protests and demonstrations are going to go over with fans, however.
After much of the country was shut down in the spring due to coronavirus, Americans were likely looking forward to the return of professional sports. But leagues have restarted sporadically, and in recent weeks, fans have become inundated with the same social justice messaging they see daily in the news and elsewhere.
NBA teams interrupted their playoffs earlier on Thursday in protest of the Kenosha incident, with LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers calling for the season to come to an end.
But hours later, players agreed to continue the season.
Meanwhile, NFL teams which have not played a single pre-season game due to the pandemic canceled scrimmages in protest — which comes after the former Washington Redskins team was pressured by stadium sponsors to drop the eight-decade-old moniker to become the Washington Football Team, at least for the 2020 season, which may or may not happen.