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Sara’s Diary, Day 83 without baseball: Words matter

MLB finally joined most teams in issuing statements on the protests

An official Rawlings Major League Baseball for the 2020 Major League Baseball season.
A 2020 MLB baseball
Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images

As of this writing 28 of 30 teams and MLB have issued statements on the protests that have gripped the nation in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd at the hands of police officers in Minneapolis. I’m really not sure what the hold up is for the Yankees and Reds, although I’m sure the latter would like me to mention that they did participate in #BlackoutTuesday yesterday.

The thing is, all of these messages were not created equal and this happens to be a time where the words you choose matter. A lot. We demonstrated this a bit in the comments section of yesterday’s entry where some Cubs fans rightfully took issue with the team’s “End Racism” message on the marquee given some of the Ricketts family members’ past comments.

These messaging problems are not unique to the Cubs. NBC Sports’ Bill Baer has been tracking all of the statements with a simple rubric he created to determine the appropriateness of the messages. He describes eight yes/no questions:

  • Mentions George Floyd by name
  • Acknowledges racism and oppression
  • Condemns police violence
  • Expresses solidarity with the oppressed
  • Uses “Black Lives Matter”
  • Avoids respectability politics
  • Avoids vague language
  • Describes meaningful action

I recognize some people may quibble with a metric here or there, but this is a pretty solid list for how to craft a statement appropriate to this moment in time. Let’s look at how teams did:

Bill Baer’s rubric by team as of 8:30 on June 3
Bill Baer

There is a lot of red on this chart and only one team that managed to hit every element. I’d actually suggest there should be another component on this list: timeliness, because the fact that the Rangers and MLB didn’t have statements until this morning is also problematic. But for the sake of argument, let’s give MLB an opportunity for full credit. Here is their statement:

Look, it’s better than what the Nationals put out last night, which received the first 0/8 score on Baer’s metric and somehow managed to make this about them winning the World Series in 2019 for...I guess reasons? But this statement is not great. In fact, Baer later tweeted that MLB’s response got a score of 4/8 on his rubric. For those of you who like stats he included a summary of how teams did overall:

Cumulative scores for baseball according to Baer’s rubric as of 8:30 am on June 3
Bill Baer

Which leads me to ask the simple question: Why is crafting these statements so hard for the vast majority of baseball? I don’t know the answer, but I do have at least a partial idea for a solution. Baseball’s front offices have long had a diversity problem and these statements are a reflection of that lack of diversity. Either offices don’t have the right people on staff to push back on these statements or they have not empowered those people to push back, but both are problems that baseball should have remedied a long time ago.

I know words will not be perfect right now. I fumble with mine all of the time and it is a tremendously difficult time to know what to say. Mistakes will be made. But those mistakes are a lot more likely if the leadership of your organization doesn’t include the people with whom you are attempting to express solidarity.