Chicago Cubs president Theo Epstein, saying that silence is complicity, has issued one of the most wide-ranging statements about racial injustice and police brutality that we’ve seen come from a Major League Baseball front office.
Epstein, speaking on a conference call Monday, endorsed the Black Lives Matter movement, acknowledged that MLB needs to do a better job at hiring black managers and general managers and said the recent wave of protests has made him re-examine his own hiring practices.
The Cubs’ conference call was scheduled to talk about the MLB draft, which is happening Wednesday and Thursday, but Epstein said it was the first time he’d spoken publicly during this time of civil unrest and wanted to address the racial conversation that has engulfed the country.
Here’s what he said, via 670 The Score:
"I'd like to start by offering my condolences to the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and the countless victims that keep losing their lives to racist violence in this country, year after year, decade after decade, century after century," Epstein said. "Echoing my colleagues at the Cubs, I'm standing up (in support) of the Black Lives Matter movement and the protesters who are doing their best to make this a real inflection point in our history. At this moment in time, silence in complicity. It's important that all of our voices are heard."
He said recent events have reminded him about the systemic nature of racism and have caused him to examine his own advantages in life:
"I'm the white person who has had a lot of advantages in life. I can't begin to walk in the shoes of a black person in this country or a black player in Major League Baseball. But I think I can also look inward, too. I [think] that's another step that we all have to take in society as well as in the game — is take a hard look at ourselves.
"It can be hard, it can be painful to look at ourselves, but when we have a problem that systemic, we all have to admit we're part of the problem. We all have to be better to become a part of the solution. So to the extent that clubhouses are not a [welcoming] place for black players, we should all be asking ourselves what we can do to fix that problem. To the extent that we don't have enough black general managers or black managers, I think we all need to look at ourselves, at our own practices. As I've looked inward, that's something that I need to find a place to be better [in].
Beyond just MLB in general hiring more black managers and GMs, Epstein said he too often hires people who come from similar backgrounds as him.
"The majority of people that I hire, if I'm being honest, have similar backgrounds to me and look a lot like me. And that's something that I need to ask myself, why? I need to question my own assumptions, my own attitudes. I need to find a way to do better. If we all take that approach in the industry — we need to. If there's one thing we've learned with systemic racism in general in this world, the system doesn't check itself. It's on each of us to take action and stand up and make some changes.
"If we all look inward, ask ourselves the hard questions and make some changes, I think that's how you address systemic issues and that's how you make things better. And hopefully, we will move forward and make positive change in all those areas, including making the clubhouse the welcoming place that it should be for all players. It's been really powerful to hear from those players on the subject."
This follows an event last week at a Chicago youth center where Cubs players Jason Heyward and Jason Kipnis joined other Chicago pro athletes in a discussion with police officers and citizens. Hayward said at the event, “the beginning of it is people being willing to listen.”
Sounds like his boss is.
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