Colorado Rockies outfielder Ian Desmond joined Mike Leake, Ryan Zimmerman, and Joe Ross by announcing he would opt out of the Major League Baseball season. Desmond addressed his decision in an Instagram post on Monday that touched on an array of issues, including racism in baseball and society, his experience as a biracial person in America, and the role Little League played in his life as he was growing up in Sarasota, Florida.
You can (and should) read Desmond's post by clicking here. For a taste, here's the conclusion, in which he outlines why he's staying home this summer.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made this baseball season one that is a risk I am not comfortable taking. But that doesn't mean I'm leaving baseball behind for the year. I'll be right here, at my old Little League, and I'm working with everyone involved to make sure we get Sarasota Youth Baseball back on track. It's what I can do, in the scheme of so much. So, I am.
With a pregnant wife and four young children who have lots of questions about what's going on in the world, home is where I need to be right now. Home for my wife, Chelsey. Home to help. Home to guide. Home to answer my older three boys' questions about Coronavirus and Civil Rights and life. Home to be their Dad.
Earlier in the message, Desmond addressed the sport's and society's problems with race. He described how his Sarasota High School teammates shouted "White Power" before games, to the shock their Black teammates, and how he dreaded filling out paperwork because of the ethnicity box. "I almost always checked Black. Because I felt the prejudice," he wrote. "That's what being Black means to me: do you feel the hurt? Do you experience racism? Do you feel like you're at a slight disadvantage?"
Desmond also made note of how MLB's culture operates by white rules that include not having fun, pimping home runs, or playing with character. He praises former manager Davey Johnson for letting him be himself, and wonders if he would've had more success had other skippers taken the same approach.
He highlighted baseball's minority issue as well, emphasizing that MLB has one African American GM, two African American managers, less than 8 percent Black players, and no Black majority team owners. "Perhaps most disheartening of all is a puzzling lack of focus on understanding how to change those numbers," he wrote. "A lack of focus on making baseball accessible and possible for all kids, not just those privileged enough to afford it."
In accordance with an agreement between the union and the league, Desmond was slated to make a prorated amount of his $15 million salary, or about $5 million. He'll be foregoing that amount unless he's deemed to be high-risk due to a health issue. He'll turn 35 later this year, and has another year remaining on his contract with the Rockies.