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An open letter to the Chicago White Sox

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It’s time to better address police violence in our city

8 June 2020

Jerry Reinsdorf
Ken Williams
Rick Hahn
Scott Reifert
Brooks Boyer
and the entire Chicago White Sox organization

As lifelong White Sox fans and members of the White Sox community, we saw your recent Twitter responses to the rampant police violence of recent days:

Is that it?

You made no mention of George Floyd. No mention of the white supremacy that precipitated his murder. No mention of policing run wild.

Such pat responses to this crisis undercut the gravity of the situation, and the reality of our surroundings.

It is time for you to say much more.

You have offered no promise to address the murder with your players. There was no specific plan to donate additionally to any causes — causes we know you’re committed to with White Sox Charities — that will help fight the scourge of police violence and the murder of Black men.

Any number of your own players could be the next police victim.

Lucas Giolito speaking on the violence, and his commitment to ending it, became the de facto statement from the White Sox. And while his were great sentiments, where is a statement of condemnation from ownership or team executives?

A sports franchise’s statement needs to hit its mark with the public with the same tangible strength that Giolito’s did.

The images and stories of police violence in Chicago this past week — against protesters, press and passerby — are horrific, yet not surprising. As Mayor Lightfoot noted, Chicago has a deep history of police violence, specifically against Black people. In the past week, we’ve seen an officer running over a 16-year-old girl in Roseland, officers shoving, brawling and clubbing protesters, and officers pepper spraying reporters.

Then there were the officers who dragged a woman from her car Sunday afternoon in a mall parking lot, where she was shopping with friends, and beat her, kneeling on her neck.

Protests in Chicago over Floyd’s killing began on May 29, and a week later 344 complaints have been made against the Chicago Police Department, according to the head of the city’s Civilian Office of Police Accountability, for excessive force, denial of counsel, improper search and seizure and verbal abuse. Countless more complaints could be made from those silenced by fear or injury during this week’s unrest.

Incredibly, one of those complaints is from Ghian Foreman, president of the Chicago Police Board, the independent civilian-led board that decides disciplinary cases involving police. Foreman’s complaint alleges that officers struck his legs with batons at least five times while he marched on 47th Street to protest police brutality. Police misconduct lawsuits cost Chicago taxpayers tens of millions of dollars annually, including an astounding $113 million in 2018 alone.

And this is just Chicago. The images around the country are equally heinous, with far too many to list, including the two college students in Atlanta, from Chicago, who were on a date when police smashed their car windows, dragged them out of the car, tased them and beat with clubs.

As Giolito himself said, it is time to “stop turning a blind eye, stop refusing to talk about it because it’s ‘uncomfortable.’ Complacency will only allow the scourge of racism to survive.”

You are guilty of just that. We’ve had no statement from you, which communicates to fans that you don’t care enough about what is happening to take a stand. If you can’t take a stand against systemic racism, white supremacy, abuse of power and a lack of accountability for police violence, what is the point of operating a business that depends so much on public faith and trust?

While our country today is beset by massive problems, they can be fought by tangible actions — ones that the Chicago White Sox franchise, a pillar of our city, with influence and means, can address by using all the tools at your disposal. You have a bully pulpit to force change in the community — and even if you don’t feel having the city’s own mayor as a lifelong, devoted fan helps your cause as a voice of change, there are still many actions you can take and resources you can commit to combat this scourge of violence and inequity.

The violence we are seeing in American cities during demonstrations for justice in the murder of George Floyd, and the murder of Breonna Taylor, and the murder of countless thousands in our past, named and unnamed, stem in part from three areas:

  • The legacy of the justice system not holding police officers accountable when they kill citizens, specifically African-Americans.
  • The delayed action by law enforcement to arrest the officer who murdered George Floyd, and the three officers who served as his accomplices. The three officers who shot and killed Breonna Taylor in March remain free.
  • The violent police action against both citizens and press exercising their First Amendment rights.

As alluded above, this is not just a Minneapolis problem, or a Louisville one. Similar police murders have occurred in Chicago, among them Laquan McDonald and Ronald Johnson III in 2014, Paul O’Neal in 2016, and Harith Augustus in 2018. Just this February, Ariel Roman was shot twice by Chicago police officers, and survived.

A sports franchise’s public statement must offer solutions just as tangible as the root causes of the problems. It must convey the same urgency inherent in this threat. It must show players — the majority of whom are persons of color — that the team stands with them and understands their pain.

A group of NFL players released a video on Thursday saying as much. NBA players have been similarly vocal. Many baseball players, from all walks of life, have shared their stories — and pledged solidarity behind the #BlackLivesMatter cause.

Tthe commissioner’s office being late and weak in their statements, dredging up Jackie Robinson as its one-size-fits-all answer to any injustice that’s arisen since 1947, is no excuse for your silence.

We ask that Jerry Reinsdorf deliver, on camera, this week a new public statement on behalf of the Chicago White Sox, stating:

  • A demand for an immediate halt to police violence against organizers, activists, demonstrators and protesters in the city of Chicago. This means encouraging public officials to not enlist the National Guard, directing police officers to protect organizers and peaceful protesters and to protect First Amendment rights of free assembly, free speech and a free press.
  • A denunciation of militarization of local police forces, and of the calls to send U.S. troops into American cities.
  • A commitment to, in the future, publicly call for the immediate arrest of officers who kill citizens, and for a legal process in their cases bereft of barriers to accountability.

There are differences of opinion, even among the undersigned, on what exactly should be done to stop police violence, and what role a baseball team can and should do to address this threat. In the coming days, we expect a variety of more nuanced discussions to take place in Chicago and across the country about police violence. Everything from a sports team’s law enforcement appreciation events, to the naked celebration of military might via costly flyovers, to bi-partisan legislation around qualified immunity reform, to defunding of police will likely become common discussion in households across America.

But we do not view the above three bullet points as particularly radical, nor as anything requiring deeper nuance or context. Police should be held accountable when they kill citizens, and Americans should be allowed to exercise their First Amendment rights. Period.

While the White Sox making the above statements will not alone solve systemic racism, white supremacy or police violence, they would, coming from a sports franchise, represent true leadership around these critical issues.

In short, they would begin to fulfill the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. you so lazily quoted: “We must fight against racism, violence and hatred in all its forms.”

Sports have always helped heal a wounded society, but some wounds are too great to even enjoy sports. When we demand justice in these cases of police brutality, we do so not just as Americans and Chicagoans, but as White Sox fans. White Sox fandom is part of our identity. The franchise supports White Sox fans when we have cancer, when we are youth athletes, when we are homeless and need coats, when we go hungry, when we return home from active duty. This is merely another aspect of that support.

The impact the White Sox organization can have in this time of American crisis, along with other sports teams in Chicago, is powerful enough to be the first steps toward justice.

Please speak clearly this week.

Support your players. Support your fans. Support Black lives.
Support Chicago.
#BlackLivesMatter

Sincerely, urgently, and in solidarity,

South Side Hit Pen
South Side Sox

Brett Ballantini, South Side Hit Pen
Marie Angelique, South Side Sox
Jack Silverstein, Windy City Gridiron
Tommy Barbee, South Side Hit Pen
Laura Jansen, South Side Sox
Ashley Sanders, South Side Hit Pen
Phil Hundley, South Side Sox
Leigh Allan, South Side Sox
Janice Scurio, South Side Hit Pen
Joe Resis, South Side Hit Pen
John Gorlewski, South Side Sox
Scott Reichard, South Side Hit Pen
Sam Sherman, South Side Hit Pen
Amber Giese, South Side Hit Pen
Julie Brady, South Side Sox
Trevor Lines, South Side Sox
Kevin Kaufmann, South Side Hit Pen
Owen Schoenfeld, South Side Hit Pen
Richard Ramey, South Side Sox
Gayle Pelc, South Side Sox