Two days after George Floyd got killed while in the custody of a white police officer in Minneapolis, Andrew McCutchen logged onto Twitter and typed out 16 words.
I feel for #GeorgeFloyd. He should be alive. I don’t want pity, I want change.
But McCutchen had more to say. Much more.
“I didn’t want to be the guy to tweet something and then just put my feet up and say, ‘I said what I needed to say,’ and then people are like, ‘Yeah, that’s awesome,’ " the Phillies left fielder said Sunday. “I’m the type of person that, if I’m going to say something, I’m going to try to back it up any way that I can.”
For the record, McCutchen said he won’t take a knee during the national anthem this season, although there have been whispers that some players may choose to do so, à la former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
But on June 2, with protests rising up in almost every city in the country, McCutchen did co-write a nearly 1,100-word op-ed in USA Today with Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr, San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, retired NFL wide receiver Anquan Boldin and New Orleans Saints linebacker Demario Davis.
The topic: police reform in the aftermath of the killings of Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. Specifically, McCutchen and his fellow authors called for greater accountability for law enforcement, writing that “we need changes that will actually alter behavior, prevent officers from harming people with impunity, and allow officials to hold officers and departments accountable when they do.”
"At that moment, I felt like something had to be done on my end," McCutchen said. "I felt like there was something that needed to be done. Not only to be said, but be done."
It hasn't been unusual in recent years for NFL and NBA figures, in particular, to speak out about social injustice. It's less common for baseball players to speak out, perhaps because only about 8% of players are Black.
As a five-time All-Star and a former National League MVP, McCutchen's stature in the sport enables him to lead on issues of racial injustice, if he chooses. He said he prefers to listen to coaches, teammates and peers before trying to change hearts and minds.
“You definitely have moments of feeling like, ‘Man, is this the right thing for me to do?’ " McCutchen said. “You start to think about the outside world, what people will think about you, the reaction that you’ll get from the things that you say or do or speak on. But the way that I looked at it was, sometimes you have to stand up for what you think is right. For me, that’s what it’s all about.
"I'm not about causing controversy. I'm not about feeling like I'm in this position now and I'm sitting on this pedestal and really forcing my hands towards things and dropping the hammer on people. I'm not that type of person. I'm just about trying to make the environment around me a better place."
McCutchen, 33, is focused lately on completing his comeback from major surgery to reconstruct the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. He wouldn’t have been ready to open the season on March 26, but baseball’s hiatus enabled him to finish his rehab in Florida and even spend a few days at his home near Pittsburgh.
If anything, the delayed season - and 60-game sprint schedule - might actually be good for him.
“He won’t have to go through the grind of a 162-game season,” Phillies manager Joe Girardi said. “Now we can DH him a little bit if we need to and that should really help him, too.”
Said McCutchen: “I did everything I needed to do and more. Now it’s just about getting the game reps.”
McCutchen said he’s involved in other initiatives to help create societal change and presumably bring awareness to the Black Lives Matter movement. He’s part of the seven-member “active player advisory board” of The Players Alliance, a group formed last month by Black players in baseball. Membership has already grown to more than 130 members.
Girardi said last week that he would stand by any player who decides to kneel during the national anthem. McCutchen said it’s “not something I’m going to partake in” because he wants to show respect for people who have made sacrifices for the country. But he also pledged his support for anyone who chooses to protest.
It’s all part of McCutchen’s message to understand one another better.
“I’m not just about talking about the problem. Whatever that problem is, I’m trying to change it for the better,” McCutchen said. “That’s what I’ll be doing from here on out. I’m not going to sit here and say I’m an activist now or I’m a scholar in this way. I do also understand that I can make a difference in some way, shape or form, so I will be a part of things.”