Orioles center fielder Adam Jones' comments about race in baseball have been discussed everywhere over the last few days. We're already in the backlash-to-the-backlash stage of the cycle, but there have been plenty of smart pieces both supporting and criticizing Jones since then.
Some of them have been thoughtful, crediting Jones for doing what no one else in the game has not. Others try to make it about Donald Trump. Some are in between. Here's what they're saying about Jones' comments regarding the growing movement of National Anthem protests.
- Yahoo's Tim Brown painted Jones' address in the context of recent comments made by Jackie Robinson's daughter, Sharon, this spring at a playground dedication in Los Angeles.
"Amid the bedlam, she was asked, as she always is, as she always will be, what Jackie would think of the baseball world today. She sighed, not for the repetitiveness of the question, I gathered, but for the repetitiveness of her answer.
'My father fought his entire life – and fights through all of us – to achieve equality in America,' she said. 'Yes, he's hopeful today.'
"I think he'd feel disappointed we've continued to struggle to build our numbers in baseball," she continued. "Yet we see more brown faces on the playing fields. My father is the kind of person who would want to remind us we still have a ways to go."
Her words were, as ever, smart and sincere. The real meaning, however, may have been in her sigh. The fight has been long and hard. Too long. Too hard. And here we are, all these decades later, wondering what happened. Or, what hasn't happened. Our game is more colorful. To use Ms. Robinson's word, browner.
Yet, does it seem equal to you? Does it seem to have grown, spread to everyone?
I loved what Adam Jones said this week. I agree with him. I loved that he said it and what comes next – for most – is a reasonable conversation, that the world didn't collapse around him, that he went out and played center field at Fenway Park in Boston for three hours, and that urban baseball academies in Compton, in Cincinnati, in Philadelphia, in Houston, in New Orleans, in Gurabo, Puerto Rico opened their doors for another day."
- Diamondbacks chief baseball officer Tony La Russa, the longtime and successful manager, took issue with Jones' comments about the racial makeup of the game saying that it's untrueto characterize baseball as a white man's sport. He said such protests like Kaepernick's would not be allowed on his team.
"Asked if he as a manager would let a player sit during the anthem, La Russa said he 'absolutely would not allow it.
'I would tell [a player that wanted to sit out the anthem to] sit inside the clubhouse, La Russa said. 'You're not going to be out there representing our team and our organization by disrespecting the flag. No, sir, I would not allow it. ... If you want to make your statement, you make it in the clubhouse, but not out there. You're not going to show it that way publicly and disrespectfully.'
While he said he would force a protesting player to stay in the clubhouse, La Russa added that he wouldn't keep that player from playing.
'No, he'd play the game, but he wouldn't be out there sitting down,' La Russa said. 'He'd go in the locker room and make his protest.'"
- Yahoo's Jeff Passan criticized La Russa for all that.
"Tony La Russa, a convicted drunk driver who managed one of the most steroid-addled clubhouses in modern baseball history and today oversees an organization that at the trade deadline passed along to multiple organizations private medical information about a player it wanted to deal, spent Wednesday playing moralist, a role that suits him about as well as chief baseball officer for a major league franchise.
The impetus behind La Russa's barrage of illogic was Baltimore Orioles outfielder Adam Jones, who called baseball a "white man's sport" when asked why no ballplayer had emulated the protests of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Were La Russa not so fundamentally myopic, he may well have realized he is exactly the white man of whom Jones speaks. And the worst kind at that: an authoritarian happy to share his opinion but not respectful enough to allow others to use their platforms in the same fashion. …
Baseball is a complicated place for black men. The ones in front offices seldom apex to full decision-making power. The ones on coaching staffs rarely rise to the manager's office. And the ones in uniform see that, and see their dwindling numbers on the field, and they talk about it among themselves, just how few faces look like theirs, how sometimes there isn't a single person in whom they can confide the experience of being a black man in America, which, like it or not, is different and is tangible. Inside the Arizona Diamondbacks clubhouse La Russa put together, Rickie Weeks is the lone African-American, one of 25. And this is not rare.
So black ballplayers do talk with each other and they do wonder: Why is this the case? They don't want to believe the sport they love is fundamentally racist, that there is some conspiracy against black ballplayers, but they know the number: 8 percent. Less than one of every dozen major league players is black. That's more than half the number of a quarter-century ago, about a third of baseball at its peak. Even if baseball hasn't actively sought to keep blacks out of the game, it sat around while the demographics changed and did nothing to plug the leak.
And now it's left with a truth that African-American ballplayers for years have said among themselves and Jones elucidated publicly: Baseball, in America, is a white, elitist sport. Look at the crowds in stadiums. Look at the demographics of TV viewers. Look at youth tournaments. Whites overwhelmingly populate every corner of American baseball. And when Jones says he feels like there are two strikes against him, well, he understands men like Tony La Russa are waiting to turn a protest into a referendum."
- At SBNation, Grant Brisbee wrote about how little controversy actually should have come from Jones' comments, though his major disagreement was that protesting this would harm Jones or other African-American players' job prospects.
"Here's where Jones and I disagree the most. Talent is what allows baseball players to have opinions. That's the most important requirement. It's why Carlos Delgado got $52 million from the Marlins months after refusing to observe "God Bless America" in the middle of the seventh inning. Talent is why the Mets didn't blink when they had a chance to trade for Delgado a year later, and it's why any Mets fans who disagreed with the stance sure didn't care as much while he was whomping 38 homers.
Talent is why Mark Dewey didn't get a gig for years after he embarrassed the Giants. Given the choice between a quiet replacement-level pitcher and a replacement-level pitcher who draws attention to his dissatisfaction about a day of AIDS awareness, I know which one I offer the minor-league contract to.
If Adam Jones decided to kneel during the national anthem, he would still be employed by the Orioles because he has talent. And in the unlikely event that he was released for making a statement, his agent's phone would melt with job offers before the next morning. But he's not even saying that he wants to. He's saying that the outcry over Kaepernick was so disproportionate to what he did.
And that's pretty hard to disagree with, considering that we're still talking about a backup quarterback's political stance weeks later. Jones wants to know why. He's also expressing how uncomfortable he is as a black player in a sport that's seen a notable decline in black players. I can imagine disagreeing with the finer points. I can't imagine being offended by them."
- Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal shot down those who think Jones being an athlete somehow disqualifies him from having an opinion.
"You do not have to agree with Kaepernick and other NFL players who are staging silent protests during national anthems, objecting to the treatment of minorities in the U.S.
Nor do you have to agree with Jones, who in an interview with USA Today's Bob Nightengale called baseball 'a white man's sport' in explaining why no major leaguers have made similar demonstrations.
But don't tell me that either discussion is inappropriate.
Fact: Many African-Americans remain concerned about racial inequality and police brutality.
Fact: African-Americans comprised only 8.3 percent of Opening Day rosters this season, according to the University of Central Florida's Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport.
The two issues, obviously, are quite different, and far too complex to be reduced to the 'I'm right, you're-wrong' shouting matches that are so prevalent in today's public discourse."