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Mariners’ Dee Gordon’s message: ‘We are tired,’ but the fight will continue

Mariners and Angels players lock arms while wearing Jackie Robinson's No. 42. (Getty)

“The message is, we are tired.”

By all rights, the Mariners’ Dee Gordon should be enjoying his first year of being a Major League Baseball player as a father. It’s clearly it is something he has looked forward to for a very long time.

Scott Servais: Mariners’ protest will be meaningful ‘only if there’s change’

When Gordon first arrived in Seattle he would talk about his young nephews and the fun he had with them. He was Super Uncle and you wondered why he had yet to start a family of his own.

As it turns out, it was always the plan. In Gordon’s words, he had always set himself up for the moment he would have a wife and kid, that time coming in late spring this year. With baseball and and now a family, he was living his dream.

As we have learned, so much can change in just a few months.

As we have witnessed, the reverse is also true.

“I think we told you this three months ago,” Gordon said Friday when asked what the message was in the Mariners’ decision not to play two days before. “We have been telling you every day, forever. It’s time for the world to open their eyes and see that we are tired. To see that we are tired. We are tired of our people being killed, we are tired being nervous that we are next, that our family members would be next – we’re just tired. I think that’s pretty simple.

“No one’s trying to be above anyone, we are not trying to retaliate for anything that’s happened over the years, we are just tired. We’re just tired of mothers grieving for their sons or daughters getting hurt, unnecessary things. That’s it. That’s pretty much it.”

The conversations leading up to the Mariners deciding they could not take the field Wednesday in San Diego were described as raw by manager Scott Servais, who talked throughout that day with individuals and groups of players. The Mariners voted unanimously not to take the field that day, joining other teams and leagues in protests and strikes after events in Kenosha, Wis., where video was captured of Jacob Blake, a Black man, being shot seven times in the back by a police officer, and another shooting left two dead and one injured days later during protests in the town.

While baseball has traditionally been the “what’s said in the clubhouse stays in the clubhouse” sport, Gordon flung open the door in his conversation with the media on a Zoom call to give a glimpse of those conversations that must be heard on the outside if steps toward change are to be taken.

“They get it,” Gordon said of how teammates have responded to he and Seattle’s other Black players. “They get it. That’s good. That’s part of the change. I’m pretty sure when they hear things from now on they are going to stand up for what’s right. I’m not going to say that any of you guys didn’t stand up because you didn’t know it was right. You didn’t know that was normal because what happens is normal for you because it’s not part of your life. For us, it’s normal but it’s numbed more than anything.

“I think it’s just a good thing to see our conversations manifest so that the actual real world can see that we are not lying. We are being truthful. It’s like we said about COVID – you never had COVID, you don’t think it’s real. If you have never been black you don’t think the racism, injustice for black people (is real). You don’t know, you don’t know.”

It has taken a long time and far too much silent pain for the stories to come out. Mariners players shared their stories on the “Black Voices in Baseball” video earlier this year. The unimaginable pain spilled out in Mets outfielder Dominic Smith’s press conference cannot be ignored. There have been so many stories, so many truths that cannot be easy to share yet here they are coming forward in a sport where any expression outside of the accepted norms has been discouraged.

Gordon knows they are taking risks stepping outside the baseball norms not knowing what impact standing out, standing up could have on their careers. The fear for their careers is real and Gordon has been careful to look out for younger teammates who might go too far in expressing what those who came before them had never been able to express. Taking care of them is important as is keeping them off the sidelines. The battle for change will be a long one, and every man is needed.

“This isn’t going to help us,” he pointed out. “This isn’t going to help Dee Gordon and the 2020 Seattle Mariners. This is going to help our kids, this is going to help your kids because you are listening to our pain. It makes it easier for us as black people to understand that OK, you know now. You know. You don’t get it, that’s your choice.”

Those wearing the Mariners uniform get it. The expectation for outside the clubhouse is the same as it is for Gordon’s teammates.

“We are going to need your guys’ help too,” he said. “We’ve got to see if people will actually stand up for us. If you don’t stand, then you are part of the problem.”

This week we have seen most of baseball stand with Black players, with the majority of teams walking off or not taking the field in protest of social injustice. While not every team halted play, what we saw is still a dramatic departure from what baseball has traditionally put forward.

Two years ago in an effort modernize the game, MLB took a step away from those traditions with the “Let the Kids Play” campaign, which highlighted actions on the field that in the past had been discouraged. Today, with what has been finally widely shared, it’s no longer just about wins and losses. It’s no longer just about batting averages and ERAs. It’s no longer just about saying the right things in a postgame interview. Today, continuing to ensure that the kids can speak, standing with them, taking on part of the burden so Dee Gordon and others do not have to be so tired, could have far greater impact than bat flips and home run celebrations on the game and society itself.

Dee Gordon has an idea to grow MLB — an all-Black WBC team

“Did I want to stop baseball?” Gordon asked. “I love baseball. But it’s a privilege. I think everyone needs to understand that you can’t be one foot in, one foot out. It’s a privilege for the players but it’s not a privilege for this part? That’s not it. That’s not equality.

“We are going to do all we can. We are going to continue to fight, continue to stand up but we definitely are going to need their help. We’re not going to be able to do it on our own. That’s just the nature of the beast but we’re definitely going to continue to fight and hopefully we can get some allies to help us. Honestly, if not, we are still going to continue to fight to try and make this world better than the way we found it.”

Follow Mariners insider Shannon Drayer on Twitter.

Drayer: Mariners players use their platform, explain decision to not play