DETROIT — Throughout the sports world, athletes were taking a determined stand for racial justice, and Jason Heyward wanted to do his part.
That meant the Cubs outfielder wouldn’t be in the lineup when the team took the field against the Tigers.
“We made these statements together as a players alliance, as players in the MLB that it’s time for us to stand up and be a part of the cause and not just sweep it under the rug. If we just went out there and played tonight and ignored what the NBA was doing and ignored what was happening right now, then I feel like that would be going back on our word. I decided to let my teammates know that I couldn’t go out there and play tonight, not with what’s happening. I told them, ‘I can’t tell you what’s going to happen tomorrow, can’t tell you what’s going to happen the next day, but tonight I needed to be a part of what was going on in my community.’ I had full support from them, teammates, coaching staff, everyone. I encouraged them to go out there and play the game tonight. I didn’t want anyone to sit here and say we didn’t need the game. I could only tell them what I was going to do and lead that way.”
Heyward’s stance sent a powerful message through the clubhouse.
“There were multiple guys saying they weren’t comfortable going out there and playing if I wasn’t going to go out there. They didn’t want to leave me hanging. I let them know and encouraged them, ‘No. Go play the game. I don’t think the game should be canceled. But I think I have to do what I have to do. That’s another reason I was out in the dugout supporting them because they support me every single day through this.”
Three major league games were postponed entirely Wednesday as players reacted to the weekend shooting by police of Jacob Blake, a Black man, in Wisconsin. The baseball postponements came after the Milwaukee Bucks refused to take the court for a playoff game against the Orlando Magic. The NBA’s whole schedule Wednesday was called off, along with the three WNBA games and some Major League Soccer contests.
“Sports sometimes is a distraction, and not in a bad way. It’s a good thing,” Heyward said. “But when you have causes that need to be spoken on and need to be acted on, I think it’s huge that sports — to also pay attention and use the platform that we have in the right way.”
Cubs manager David Ross said it was important for him to talk to Heyward as everything was unfolding.
“He has been such a leader for us in so many ways, so I just wanted to get him in here and let him speak freely,” Ross said. “It was an emotional conversation. As real as it gets.
“I can’t even imagine what he’s going through.”
The shooting struck a chord with Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo, a graduate of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17 students were killed by a gunman in February of 2018.
“Absolutely. For the whole community. For a lot of us. For a lot of people. I’ve gone through a lot with my high school. S–t doesn’t change. It’s just the fact of the matter. Politicians don’t really give a f–k about us. All they care about is their own agenda. This is just the way it is. It’s upsetting. I’m sorry to use that language and go off, but it’s just upsetting.”
The Cubs aren’t scheduled to play again until Friday in Cincinnati, giving the team time to discuss what they want to do next.
“This is not the end of this conversation, I don’t think. Every day something pops up new here. We’ll continue to navigate tomorrow, tomorrow.”