Over the past several days Major League Baseball’s clubs began, after some initial hesitance, to issue statements in response to George Floyd’s killing and the civil unrest which followed it and continues.
Some of those statements have been very good (looking at you Rays and Orioles). Others less so (looking at you, well, everyone else).
The biggest problem with what most of the teams have said is that, no matter how good their intentions, you would never know from most of the statements that this all began with a police officer killing a black man. You would never know that that is the basis for the protests going on in almost every major city and in many small towns across the country. With only a couple of exceptions, the teams’ statements do not mention police brutality or police behavior at all.
Which, at some point I suppose I just have to let go. I and others have spent a good amount of time the past few days taking issue with the omission of police and police brutality from these statements, but one can only beat one’s head against the wall so much and spend so much time wishing that a committee-drafted corporate communication is going to convey that which one wishes it will convey. On some level — a very high level — these sorts of statements are aimed at (a) checking off a “hey, at least we didn’t ignore it” box; and (b) heading off blowback on social media. I understand how that works.
A few minutes ago Major League Baseball issued a statement of its own. Like most of the team statements it does not mention the police or police brutality. But it does do something more. See if you can spot it:
The difference between this and what most other institutions have said is that here Major League Baseball says “We want to be better, we need to be better, and this is our promise to do the work.”
What is “the work?” What is “the work” even aimed at? More to the point, how can anyone do “work” if they don’t specifically identify the problem “the work” is intended to solve? MLB cites “racism and social injustice.” That’s extraordinarily broad and, arguably, MLB already does a great deal along those lines. If you doubt that, I can tell you that they issue many, many press releases to tell you about it, usually around April 15. But what is “the work” that they plan to do beyond that? And how, again, does it relate to the “senseless killings” they cite at the outset?
This matters. It matters because if you nod at a problem and make no promises to do anything about it, hey, fine, I get it, you don’t care. But that’s not what Major League Baseball is doing here. It is going a step beyond just empty signaling and saying that it plans to do things.
I am eager to see what those things are. Specifically.