Episode 29 - The Red Sox chose whiteness over everything else

Transcript, Web links and Credits below.

Transcript: Hey Everybody! As you may know, the Boston Red Sox won the World Series last year. And because sports are so huge in this country, when teams win national titles, they typically visit the White House to celebrate with the President. But since Trump has been elected many teams and players have quietly bowed out. Yesterday, ignoring the concerns of their players and staff of color, every single white player and coach went to the White House anyway. It was despicable.

And I think the whole mess was a huge metaphor for America. Let’s dig in.

This is Shaun King and you are listening to (The Breakdown)! ---- You are going to hear me say this a lot on The Breakdown, but it’s genuinely hard to understand a moment in history when you are in it. I have a book coming out early next year where I break this down in great detail, but what I mean is this.

Life itself feels normal. It feels mundane. But right now, in this very moment, some things are happening that are deeply historic. As a kid, I used to wonder how in the world nations sat and watched as millions of Jewish men, women, boys, and girls were ripped from their homes and taken to camps.

Well guess what? Right now China has taken over 1.5 million Muslims from their homes and communities, bulldozed their mosques, and put them in camps and prisons. Google it. It’s happening right now before our very eyes.

As a kid in the 80s I used to wonder how the world could allow children in Ethiopia to literally starve to death. As a little boy I felt helpless and was heartbroken that any person of means would see that and do nothing.

But right now, kids are starving to death all over Yemen. And most of us are watching and doing nothing at all.

Because when you are in a historic moment, it doesn’t always feel so historic. And yesterday the Boston Red Sox had a moment to do the right thing. They had a moment to be remembered in history the right way. And what we saw is that some players and coaches and staff — all of them Black, Latino, or immigrants — some players took that stand, but every single white player and staff member of the Boston Red Sox refused.

Let me be more specific. Alex Cora — who is the award-winning manager of the Boston Red Sox — is an immigrant from Puerto Rico. And he has not only watched Trump lie over and over again about Puerto Rico, he’s watched Puerto Rico crumble under the weight of a natural disaster when the United States should’ve been there to help the country pick up the pieces. Over and over again Trump has demeaned Puerto Rico and its people. So he said he couldn’t, in good conscience, visit the White House after all that Trump has said and done to insult and abandon his people.

To me, that right there — when your manager decides that going to visit the White House would be personally degrading — that is the point that the Red Sox as an organization should’ve said, we won’t be going this year.

But then, Mookie Betts, a young Black man who is the single best player on the team, said he simply could not lower himself to go. Let me tell you how important he is to the team. In 2018 Mookie Betts became the first player in Major League history to win the Most Valuable Player, Silver Slugger, Gold Glove, batting title, and the World Series in the same season. Last year he had one of the single best seasons of any player in baseball history. And he felt that it would be an insult to himself, to his people, and also to Alex Cora and others, if he showed up. So he bowed out.

And that alone should’ve been enough — when your manager and your star player say that going to visit Trump would be an insult to their people, you should bow out as a team.

David Price, another important veteran Black player from the team, who is one of their star pitchers, opted out.

The team’s catcher, Christian Vázquez, who is also from Puerto Rico said he refused to go and made it clear how personal it was. As did Xander Bogaerts, Sandy León, Eduardo Núñez, Hector Velázquez, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Rafael Devers.

With their manager, their MVP, their catcher, one of their star pitchers, and a host of other Black and Latino players all bowing out, not a single white player or manager on the team felt moved to join them. Not one.

And when other teams were faced with something like this — like the Philadelphia Eagles where every Black player planned to skip, but most of the white players planned to go — Trump canceled the trip. After the University of Virginia won the NCAA Men’s basketball championship a few months ago, they opted not to go. The Golden State Warriors opted out when they won the NBA title.

But split almost exclusively down racial lines, the Red Sox went anyway — and I think it’s a huge metaphor for the state of our country right now.

To illustrate my point, let me play you a clip from Spike Lee’s classic movie, Do The Right Thing. In it, Spike’s character, Mookie, confronts an Italian character in the film named Pino played by John Turturro. Mookie confronts Pino for being racist, even calling Black people n—, while loving Black culture.

Here’s the scene. (Do the right thing scene) The white owners, the white managers, the white players from the Red Sox are like Pino — they love their Black and Latino stars and managers on the field, on the field they cheer for them, high five them, celebrate with them. But off the field, it’s a different story altogether.

Sometimes we say it like this — a lot of white people love Black culture, but not Black people. Same is true with Latin culture but not Latin people.

And after the event yesterday, the white owners and executives, blinded by their own white privilege, said that for them, the moment wasn’t political. But it’s a mighty white thing to be able to stand and smile and celebrate with Donald Trump and say, for you, that the moment is completely devoid of politics. What they really mean by that is that Donald Trump doesn’t offend them, and that since he doesn’t offend them, they can stand with him, joke with him, high five and laugh and smile and take pictures with him.

And his racism, his misogyny, his bigotry, his lies, they just don’t occur to white men in the moment, but the Black and Latino players and staff just couldn’t see it like that. And of course they couldn’t.

And it’s a shame that when they had a simple moment to stand with the men on their team that felt deeply offended by Trump, the white men chose their whiteness over everything else.

And to me that’s what Trump means. It’s what Ta-Nehisi Coates meant in his brilliant essay where he called Trump ”The First White President.” Of course we had 43 other white presidents before Trump, but Coates brilliantly illustrated that Trump was the first President elected mainly because he was a white man — on the philosophy of whiteness and white power.

The Red Sox had a moment to get it right yesterday, but they failed. And the executives of the team said that everything is fine now and that this won’t divide the clubhouse. But what he doesn’t know is that yesterday proved that the team was already divided. They just don’t care to acknowledge it. ---- Thank you all for making it all the way through this episode of The Breakdown! If you haven’t already subscribed to our podcast, we’ll be right back here every single weekday, breaking down important news stories and issues, and we’d love for you to subscribe on your favorite podcast apps like Apple Podcasts or Spotify. Please share this podcast with your friends and family. Our next goal is to get to 100,000 subscribers and we won’t get there without you! Have you left a review yet? On Apple Podcasts we now have over 5,000 5-star reviews, but we’re aiming for 10,000 — so we still want to hear from you so please leave your best review when you get time.

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Lastly, a shout out to our Associate Producer Lyssandra and Podcasting Director and Senior Producer, Willis, for their hard work on this and every episode. Take care everybody. ----- Credits: Produced by Willis Polk II Additional Instrumentation by Christian “Idrys” Shannon, Lance "Lance Fury" Powlis & Markeith Black Additional Engineering by Amond “AJ” Jackson for Salem Psalms Library Additional Vocals by Garnett “Natti” Bush & Jason Coffey Scratches by Kenny “DJ FlipFlop” Vanderberg