Rockies’ Ian Desmond rips MLB culture, shares angst about race in opt-out message

Rockies outfielder Ian Desmond announced Monday night that he will not take part in the 2020 MLB season, an option baseball is affording players as the sport opens amid the COVID-19 pandemic. He offered multiple personal reasons in a lengthy Instagram post.

A brief summary of those reasons:

— The “gruesome murder” (Desmond’s words) of George Floyd in Minneapolis last May broke his “coping mechanism” and left him unable to suppress his emotions.

— A recent visit to the Little League complex in his hometown, Sarasota, Fla., upset him. The fields where he once played were in poor shape and deserted. He then recounted racist behavior by high school teammates and racial inequality in American education. He recalled helping Antwaun, a kid he met at the Nationals’ youth academy while he was playing in Washington. Antwaun “died when he was 18, shot 31 times in D.C.,” Desmond wrote.

— He’s disturbed by what he sees around MLB in 2020.

“Think about it: right now in baseball we’ve got a labor war. We’ve got rampant individualism on the field. In clubhouses we’ve got racist, sexist, homophobic jokes or flat-out problems. We’ve got cheating. We’ve got a minority issue from the top down. Two African American managers (ed.: Dusty Baker, Dave Roberts). Less than 8% Black players. No Black majority team owners.

“Perhaps most disheartening of all is a puzzling lack of focus on understanding how to change those numbers. A lack of focus on making baseball accessible and possible for all kids, not just those who are privileged enough to afford it.

“If baseball is America’s pastime, maybe it’s never been a more fitting one than now.”

— He spoke of experiences with racism as a biracial male and the stress of having to check certain boxes during his life. That led him to list “the golden rules of baseball: don’t have fun, don’t pimp home runs, don’t play with character. Those are white rules. Don’t do anything fancy. Take it down a notch. Keep it all in the box.”

— He wants to be present for his young family. His wife is expecting their fifth child. “With a pregnant wife and four young children who have lots of questions about what’s going on in the world, home is where I need to be right now,” he wrote. He said he will also devote time to reviving youth baseball in Sarasota. “It’s what I can do, in the scheme of so much. So, I am,” he wrote.

If MLB does not rule Desmond, 34, a “high-risk” player in terms of health, then he will forfeit about $5.5 million, the prorated portion of his 2020 salary that he would have made had he participated in MLB’s 60-game regular season, and not accumulate service time. He has one year and an option remaining on his five-year, $70 million contract after this season.

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