MLB

Blue Jays' Thursday game called off in wake of Jacob Blake shooting

The Toronto Blue Jays-Boston Red Sox Major League Baseball game on Thursday night has been postponed in the aftermath of the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, in Wisconsin last weekend.

Toronto matchup with Boston 1 of 7 MLB games postponed

The Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays are shown in action on Tuesday at Sahlen Field in Buffalo, N.Y. The teams will not play on Thursday night as professional sports teams push for social reform after the shooting of Jacob Blake by a police officer in Wisconsin. (Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images)

The Toronto Blue Jays-Boston Red Sox Major League Baseball game on Thursday night has been postponed in the aftermath of the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, in Wisconsin last weekend.

The Red Sox and Jays put out a joint statement to announce the decision, about 30 minutes before the scheduled first pitch.

The decision was made after Red Sox outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr., who is Black, said he would not play, according to multiple media reports.

Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said his players had chosen to play the game after a closed-door meeting among themselves, but once they heard of the Red Sox and Bradley's decision, they agreed to postpone.

"I couldn't tell you who led our meeting," Montoyo said. "I went in there and talked to the whole group then I left the room and I closed the door so that's all I know about that conversation … It was a team decision."

The Blue Jays and Red Sox played the second game of their three-game series on Wednesday night in Buffalo, N.Y., after NBA players started a string of postponements across all sports.

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Montoyo, who said he'd experienced racism in the past as a Latino man in baseball, said he respects players' decisions to take a stand against inequality.

"I've been a victim of racism and I know some players have also been victims of racial discrimination. And if a player wants to use his platform to make a statement about racial injustice I fully support that," he said.

"A lot of guys are going through stuff like this and I like that they're speaking out. They have a big platform to talk and they're using it and I support that."

Toronto GM Ross Atkins said during a videoconference Thursday that his team didn't have enough time to properly discuss postponing Wednesday's game. He added that he supported the decision made by NBA players and other MLB teams to not play Wednesday.

"We can't, as an organization, lose sight on what's happening in society," Atkins said.

"But in the end we'll absolutely support what our players want."

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Atkins said the team has a role to play in making sure "the dialogue continues and that players feel supportive and have what they need."

"Drawing attention and creating more dialogue is a platform we have and we need to use it," he added. "We need to talk about using it with our players and talk about it with the league and talk about it with other teams."

Toronto is scheduled to start a four-game series with the Baltimore Orioles on Friday night in Buffalo.

Six other MLB games were called off on Thursday.

The league postponed three of its games on Wednesday.

Across the sport, one theme became clear: Baseball shouldn't avoid potentially difficult conversations and decisions regarding social issues. Though the process may be imperfect, there was agreement that coaches, players and teams should speak their mind.

"This is at the forefront now," said Oakland infielder Tony Kemp, who is Black. "By sitting out tonight's game, I feel like it's just a small building block of what we want to see. These couple days are historic times in sports. One day our kids are going to look back and ask us what was going on and what did we do to help bring awareness to these issues in the world, and we're going to say, `One game we just decided not to play.'"

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Oakland's game at Texas was among six besides Toronto-Boston that were postponed Thursday afternoon, along with Tampa Bay at Baltimore, Philadelphia at Washington, Minnesota at Detroit, Colorado at Arizona and Miami at the New York Mets.

The Mets and Marlins jointly walked off the field after a moment of silence, draping a Black Lives Matter T-shirt across home plate as they chose not to start their scheduled game Thursday night.

The national anthem was played and all players and coaches stood.

Mets outfielder Dominic Smith — a Black man who wept Wednesday night while discussing the shooting by police of a Black man in Wisconsin over the weekend — then led New York onto the field. Players took their positions, then reserves and coaches filed out of both dugouts and stood silently for 42 seconds.

Both teams then left the field, leaving only the black T-shirt at home.

The game was later postponed.

Some players, including St. Louis Cardinals ace Jack Flaherty, were frustrated there wasn't a more unified response.

"It's tough because yesterday would have been the day for league-wide action, and it wasn't able to happen league-wide yesterday," Flaherty said. "Hopefully, it could happen today, but it doesn't seem like it's going to be able to happen today."

A statement from The Players Alliance, which consists of more than 100 current and former Black players, said current players will donate their salaries from Thursday and Friday in "supporting our efforts to combat racial inequality and aid the Black families and communities deeply affected in the wake of recent events."

Baseball has dealt with a slow decline in the number of Black players for decades. In recent seasons, the percentage of Black players has hovered around eight per cent. For a sport that proudly recognizes Jackie Robinson — who broke MLB's colour barrier in 1947 with the Brooklyn Dodgers — the decline has been frustrating for some.

Baseball will celebrate Jackie Robinson Day on Friday. It's normally on April 15 but was moved because of the COVID-19-altered schedule to Aug. 28, which is the anniversary of the March on Washington in 1963 and also the day in 1945 when Dodgers GM Branch Rickey met with Robinson to discuss breaking the colour barrier.

"I think he would be amazed at the lack of progress in his eyes," said Milwaukee's Lorenzo Cain, who is Black. "I don't know personally what he went through, but I know the stories. I know for a fact it wasn't easy for him to be in the situation he was in. He paved the way for guys like me to go out and play this game and be in this position today. I'll always thank him for that.

"The fact we're talking about this in 2020, I don't see the progress in that. It's almost like we're going backwards."

Texas manager Chris Woodward said there were some individual conversations with his players before Wednesday's game and they were OK playing. He said then that the Rangers were going to "fully support" any of their players who decided not to play, and the same for the A's if they decided not to play.

With files from The Associated Press

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