A few Phillies players reached out Thursday morning to Rhys Hoskins, the team’s union representative, and told him that they were unsure if they would play that night.
Three major-league games were postponed a night earlier and the NBA playoffs were paused after players in both sports decided to protest instead of play as a response to Sunday’s shooting of Jacob Blake by a police officer in Kenosha, Wis.
And now the Phillies needed to decide if they would protest or play. The decision, Hoskins said, would be made together. So he called a team meeting Thursday afternoon at the team hotel with every player, no coaches or staff members.
The meeting lasted nearly 40 minutes. It was powerful, Hoskins said. Players shared their feelings. Some were emotional.
“Sports provide a distraction that puts us in a spotlight on a daily basis,” Hoskins said. “I think today we just decided to take a step back from that to make sure that some of these real issues and social injustices were the focus. That was important to the whole group, to both teams today. That’s what we decided to do.”
Hoskins told Joe Girardi that the team was not playing. The manager supported his players and informed the Nationals, who supported the Phillies’ decision. The game, which was scheduled to be nationally televised, was postponed as were six other major-league games on Thursday.
“In this world, I’ve always believed that there’s two things that you can’t live without and it has nothing to do with food and water. It’s love and hope,” Girardi said. “I don’t think we’re doing a good job in our country giving that to everyone. I think that needs to be the focus here. I think that’s what baseball, the Philadelphia Phillies are standing up for. People need to have love and hope.”
“Things have to change,” Nationals manager Davey Martinez said. “There’s ugliness in this world. It needs to be fixed and it needs to start now.”
The Phillies will return Friday at home against Atlanta while the Nationals travel to Boston. For now, Thursday’s protest was aimed to raise awareness, but Hoskins said the players are determining what else they can do.
The Players Alliance -- a collective of current and former Black players that includes Andrew McCutchen, Roman Quinn, and Reggie McClain -- announced that the players in the alliance would donate their salaries from Thursday and Friday “to support efforts to combat racial inequality and aid the Black families and communities deeply affected in the wake of recent events.”
“Tomorrow is Jackie Robinson Day,” said Nationals infielder Josh Harrison, who is also in the Players Alliance. “He had a teammate in Pee Wee Reese who stood up for him when times were tough. At the end of the day, it’s about humanity and respecting each other. Treat others how you want to be treated.”
Earlier in the day, Girardi watched a clip of Charles Barkley saying that it is “exhausting” being Black. Tom Brady, Barkley said, is not asked “about what is going on in white America.” But Black athletes, Barkely said, “have to comment on everything that happens in the Black community.”
Barkley’s comments stuck with Girardi as he sat Thursday afternoon at a joint news conference with Martinez at Nationals Park.
“That’s not something that necessarily comes across my plate everyday, but it does others. And I think it’s really important that we hear from everyone and their opinion on this and what they have to deal with,” Girardi said. “People are just asking to be heard so there’s change made. They’re not asking for money. They’re not asking for a lot of different things. We want change. We want this to be the best place in the world to live. Unless we do something about it, it’s not going to be. I don’t think that’s how this country was founded. I really don’t.”
Harrison, who was with the Phillies during spring training and summer camp, received a text Thursday afternoon before arriving at Nationals Park from McCutchen, who told Harrison about the decision the Phillies made in their meeting at the team hotel. They weren’t playing. The Nationals agreed.
For one day, the two rivals came together and paused their season to raise awareness.
“We have a platform as athletes and we use our platform to go out there and show kids how to have fun doing what we do and give back to your community,” Harrison said. “But with that comes the territory of standing up for what you believe in and doing what’s right. At the end of the day, that’s justice and equality for any and everybody who has been done wrong.”