BUFFALO — A thunderstorm rolled over Sahlen Field on Thursday when the Red Sox gathered to meet inside a large tent that serves as the visiting team clubhouse.
Their agenda was deciding whether to join Jackie Bradley Jr. in not playing against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Bradley had informed the team earlier in the day that he would skip the game to add his name to the growing list of professional athletes in all sports taking an active stand against police brutality of Black citizens.
The latest example, Jacob Blake being shot seven times in the back by a Wisconsin police officer on Sunday, has led to games being postponed by MLB, NBA, NHL, MLS, and WNBA teams.
Bradley gave his reasons to the other players, as did two other Black members of the group, first base coach Tom Goodwin and athletic trainer Brandon Henry. They spoke of their experiences encountering racism and the impact it had on their lives.
Recounting those moments had manager Ron Roenicke in tears afterward.
“[Bradley] told the guys, ‘This is my decision. I’m fine if you guys want to play. It’s an individual thing and a decision that we all have to make.’
“He said there’s no hard feelings if you guys want to go out there and play. But that’s not how the group felt. The group felt strongly in backing Jackie and his beliefs in the issues that are going on.”
In all, seven MLB games were postponed on Thursday.
“This is really an important time in our country. And what are we going to do? These guys have a platform to be able to discuss some things that are serious issues in our country that we need to straighten out.”
The Blue Jays, meeting across the field at the same time, decided to play, but manager Charlie Montoyo said “once we got word from the Red Sox that they didn’t want to play, we fully supported them.”
The team then issued a joint statement.
“The continued police brutality and social inequity demand immediate attention and focus from all of us — not only Black Americans and Canadians,” it read.
“We fully respect the decision of our players to bring further awareness to the systemic racism that contributes to police violence against Black, Indigenous and people of color in our communities. We look forward to getting back on the field, and using our strongest platform, our game, to amplify our message demanding meaningful change.”
The Red Sox also discussed, at first baseman Mitch Moreland’s suggestion, working together as a team to add a charitable component to their actions.
Righthander Nate Eovaldi said the meeting was emotional.
“I needed to hear some of the stories they’ve had to endure and go through in their lives. It’s hard for me to wrap my head around,” he said. “They’re all such genuine people. It shows me there’s bigger topics we need to be discussing … it’s the least we could do to show them the respect and support that they need.”
No date to make the game up was immediately announced. The Blue Jays have a series at Fenway Park on Sept. 3-6, and the expectation is the teams will play a doubleheader one of those days.
Along with Roenicke and Eovaldi, Xander Bogaerts and Kevin Pillar met with reporters via video after the meeting. Eovaldi was wearing a Black Lives Matter T-shirt.
“The best thing that we can do collectively is to continue to have those conversations, to hear each other’s stories, to voice our opinions whether we agree with them or disagree with them, to have the uncomfortable conversations,” Pillar said.
Said Bogaerts: “There’s no place [for racism], no room for that and those type of actions. It’s’ not going to take one day. It’s something that’s been going on for a lot of years. But I think today was a good step forward.”
Roenicke, 64, has been in professional baseball since 1977 as a player, coach and manager. Thursday, he said, was one of his most memorable days in the game.
“Listening to [Goodwin] and Jackie talk, it makes a big difference in our lives and should make a difference in everybody’s lives,” he said.