Jason Heyward speaks up on social injustice protests, movement
If Major League Baseball is to take a step in the fight for social equality, Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward knows it doesn’t start with a team, a club official or the league.
Now, he feels, in order for baseball to play a role on the social equality front, there’s only one place it’s going to come from.
“I think first it starts with players like myself, African Americans, speaking up,” Heyward said on Saturday afternoon. “Again, just speaking truth, speaking knowledge. Letting people know we’re here for equality. We’re not here for any special treatment.”
On Friday afternoon, the first day of workouts for the Cubs at Wrigley Field, Heyward took that message to heart. He addressed his teammates and let them know that he was willing to talk to them and answer any questions they may have.
“I’m not doing this for attention,” Heyward said. “I’m not doing this because I’m out here and anything’s changed. I never bring up race like that to them at all because I think it’s pretty well understood and explained for the most part with who I am.
“I come in understanding everyone’s different. Just right now, just like Venezuela’s gone through things, Puerto Rico’s gone through things, other countries have. We’re going through things in our community and we gotta take care of that.”
Heyward wants to make sure that the conversation and focus points aren’t lost to anyone. With the coronavirus pandemic, the attention has been able to focus on the nationwide protests that were ignited by the death of George Floyd at the hands of law enforcement. But he’s aware that the message of those protests can easily be drowned out.
“Is it gonna be sustainable? Because there’s always someone or something trying to put something in to disguise it,” Heyward said. “Sports is a distraction from it. Election is a distraction from it. Other things going on make it very much easier to turn the page when right now, I think, the blessing and a curse with the virus is there’s not too much going on to drown it out, so people are saying, ‘Hey, let’s go speak up on it, let’s get some information, let’s pass information.’”
For Heyward, the opportunity to speak up on issues like this is fresh. It’s also a bit of uncharted territory.
“This is new for us to be able to speak up and it’s not easy,” Heyward said. “It’s not comfortable to do so because for the longest time we’ve kinda said, OK we know to get to this situation, someone like myself, to get to a free agent contract and get to choose a city he gets to play in, you gotta do things the right way and in a certain way to be able to gain that sort of respect and reputation.”
But the moment was too big for Heyward or any other major leaguer who spoke up to sit by idly. Heyward had to have his voice heard.
“We just can’t sit here and sit on our hands any longer, knowing that our families, our friends and our communities are struggling,” Heyward said. “So, I think we do play a role in that as players. We as players, first have to speak up to let everyone know, ‘OK this is how you start the conversation.’ And then we get rallied around by teammates, by organizations and so on.”