Blue Jays’ Guerrero Jr., Montoyo shine opening day spotlight on racial justice

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. talks with the media about why he plans to kneel during the national anthem before the Toronto Blue Jays play their first game of the year.

As the Toronto Blue Jays prepare to embark upon a season like no other, they’re committed to ensuring the social justice conversations which have emerged in a year the likes of which most have never seen do not fade from the public discourse.

Wearing a black t-shirt, Black Lives Matter emblazoned in big block letters across the chest, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. sat down for a pre-game media availability and announced his intention to kneel during the national anthem in Toronto’s first game of the pandemic-delayed season.

The decision, he said through a translator, was made after meeting with his family and speaking with Blue Jays teammate Anthony Alford.

“We just don’t like the way things are going with all the Black people and all of what’s happening out there,” Guerrero Jr. said. “So yes, we all got together and we decided it’s good for me to kneel.

“…I sat down with [Anthony] Alford a couple times and there’s some things, this situation, I’m very hurt inside for what’s happening right now. It’s [the] reality of things that are happening right now for people with our colour.”

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Guerrero Jr. wasn’t the only member of the Blue Jays to show support for the Black Lives Matter movement prior to tonight’s game.

Manager Charlie Montoyo arrived to his Zoom media availability wearing a Black Lives Matter shirt, too.

“I’m supporting one of my players, Anthony Alford,” Montoyo said. “Players know it’s their choice [to wear a Black Lives Matter shirt or not]. So it was my choice to wear it.”

In early June, Alford spoke with Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi about his own experiences with racial injustice and the need for change in the wake of continued incidents like that of the killing of George Floyd.

Toronto’s support for the Black Lives Matter movement comes after similar displays during yesterday’ Washington Nationals–New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers–San Francisco Giants games, the first official matches of the pandemic-delayed 2020 season.

Prior to both games, a 200-yard black cloth was held by coaches and players as a pre-recorded message narrated by the actor Morgan Freeman played over the stadium speakers.

“In order to achieve effective change and create a new canvas of optimism, empathy must lead the charge,” Freeman said. “This moment signifies our charge. Our brotherhood. Our unity. Equality and unity cannot be, until there is empathy. Today and everyday, we come together as brothers. As equals. All with the same goal: to level the playing field, to change the injustices. Equality is not just a word, it’s our right.”

All players then took a knee for 60 seconds of silence. In the second game of opening night, Dodgers star Mookie Betts and several others knelt during the anthem, too. Earlier this week, Giants manager Gabe Kapler became the first manager in MLB to take a knee during the national anthem.

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