Rays put opening day focus on social justice issues

A post from the team Twitter account at 8 a.m. addresses Breonna Taylor's death.
On the Rays' opening day, this tweet was sent from the team account. Breonna Taylor was killed by Louisville police in March.
On the Rays' opening day, this tweet was sent from the team account. Breonna Taylor was killed by Louisville police in March. [ ]
Published July 24, 2020|Updated July 24, 2020

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays used the occasion of Friday’s season opener to put a focus on social justice issues.

A post from the team Twitter account at 8 a.m. set the agenda, noting that opening day is “a great day to arrest the killers of Breonna Taylor.”

The Rays followed up with two other tweets about systemic racism, one noting the history and the other their commitment of nearly $100,000 to several Tampa Bay groups that fight the issue: Tampa’s Corporation to Develop Communities, the Pinellas County Urban League, the Equal Justice Initiative’s Community Remembrance Project Coalition, the NAACP Hillsborough County branch and the Pinellas People Empowering & Restoring Communities program.

The team also linked to a social justice resource guide on Twitter and in email — with the subject line #BlackLivesMatter. The guide includes links to an equity grant program; a list of Black, indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) businesses; educational resources, and organizations that deal with the issue.

Rays officials declined comment on the timing of the tweets and email, or the volume and tenor of reaction they received. But the statements align with the team’s messaging on such issues, driven by its diversity and inclusion committee, and a desire to generate conversation and prompt action.

In June, after the killing of George Floyd, the Rays and Rowdies issued a strongly-worded statement including this passage, and committing to financial support:

“Black Lives Matter. Police brutality is inhumane. We fully support the protestors exercising their civil rights. We stand with black families living in fear.

“Our country demands better than this for its people. We can’t breathe.

“Words are not enough and have never been enough. We need continued action and a re-education of our culture.”

Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman, was shot and killed by Louisville police in March in her apartment, the result, her family said, of a botched raid to execute a drug warrant.

For tonight’s game, the Rays will be part of a league-wide initiative, with the letters BLM stenciled on the back of the Trop mound along with a reversed MLB logo that has the batter in black. Players can also wear batting practice T-shirts and uniform patches that say either Black Lives Matter or United For Change.

Prior to the game, players for both the Rays and Blue Jays will stand on the field, then hold a black cloth and kneel as a social justice video is played before the anthem. That was done before both Thursday games, Yankees at Nationals and Giants at Dodgers.

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The Rays will also make a point with the anthem, planning to play the stylized version Marvin Gaye performed at the 1983 NBA All-Star Game.

Centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier said Rays players have been talking about ways to show support, which could include some kneeling during the anthem. He said he plans to stand as he always has, but some players may kneel as it will be an individual rather than a team-wide decision.

Before the Giants-Dodgers game Thursday, the wife of Jackie Robinson, who became the first Black man to play Major League Baseball in 1947, was shown in a video proclaiming, “It’s time for Dodger baseball!”