Take these two images and put them side-by-side.

Image one: Mookie Betts stood next to Dave Roberts, who stood next to Clayton Kershaw, who stood next to Kenley Jansen as the four of them, Black and white Dodgers teammates together, answered questions about choosing not to play their game with the Giants on Wednesday night.

Image two: Jackie Bradley Jr., the only Black player on the Red Sox after the only Black teammates he had, Betts and David Price, were traded to the Dodgers in February, sat by himself to answer questions about why he played Wednesday, and discussions the Red Sox had (rather, discussions they didn’t have) about playing their game.

Bradley was all alone. He’s always alone.

“I am the only Black person on this team, so I kind of feel like it’s my responsibility to address it in certain situations just so people can see what I feel and the things I think about,” Bradley said. “I can take it on.”

The NBA was in unison in canceling their playoff games Wednesday to protest the Jacob Blake shooting, the latest example of police brutality against African-American people in this country. In Wisconsin, where Blake was shot seven times in the back, the Brewers decided to protest, too. As did the Mariners, who have the most Black players of any team in baseball.

In Buffalo, Bradley was 1 for 3 for the Red Sox as they got smoked by the Blue Jays in a 9-1 loss.

Yes, the Red Sox played despite the tragedy, and lost badly. Thursday’s game was postponed.

This is the franchise that was to integrate in 1959 when Pumpsie Green broke the color barrier at Fenway Park.

This a team that has cycled through dozens of pitchers in this lost season, but haven’t added a Black player to the roster in two full years.

This is the team that traded the best Black player in franchise history and the highest-paid Black player in franchise history in February.

No, we aren’t accusing the Red Sox of hand-picking their roster to avoid Black players. That’s not fair, it’s very likely not accurate, and it’s most importantly not the point. The point is that representation matters. And while the Red Sox had three African-Americans on their team in 2019, they’re down to one.

So whenever there are issues about racial injustice that overflow from the national conversation into our sacred world of sports, Bradley has to answer the questions about what it’s like to be playing baseball while Black people are being killed by police officers in the streets.

He’s perfectly adequate at handling the responsibility, but most of us in Boston are wondering: Where are his teammates? Why can’t one of the white players come out and make a statement, or make himself available to the press to tell Red Sox Nation that the team is upset about the current events and supports Bradley and the other Black players in MLB? Or that they’re engaging Bradley in conversations and trying to learn what they can from him about the rare experience of being a Black big leaguer?

Black big leaguers are far and few between these days.

MLB continues to struggle in that regard, with just 7.8% Black players on Opening Day rosters, according to a recent analysis by USA Today. Three teams didn’t have a single Black player.

The Sox could be one of them next year, when Bradley is likely to depart because of his pending free agency.

As the only Black player, it seems like he’s very aware of the power of his words and is careful never to reveal much about his true feelings on the subject.

Who can blame him for sharing so little about the subject? If he speaks out, he risks being seen as a “vocal” player or a “radical activist” or someone who could become a “distraction in the clubhouse,” words that baseball hates to chew on.

But it sure seems like Betts wasn’t a distraction in that Dodgers clubhouse, where he told his teammates Wednesday he wasn’t going to play but would support them fully if they wanted to play without him.

They didn’t. They wanted to support him. And they did.

“Black people have been fighting this same fight for centuries and we haven’t gotten anywhere,” Betts said. “Having the white players help push it, I think change can be made.”

Kershaw’s statement was powerful as he stood with Betts for the press conference.

“As a teammate of Mookie’s … as a white player on this team, how can we show support?” Kershaw said. “What’s something tangible we can do to help our Black brothers on this team? Once Mookie said he wasn’t going to play, that started our conversation as a team. We felt that was the best decision.”

Perhaps one day soon, a white teammate of Bradley’s will stand up and do the same.

All he’d say Wednesday is that he gives his “full support” to those players protesting in the NBA and MLB due to Blake’s shooting, and that it “obviously” impacts the teams in Milwaukee more directly, just as it impacts African-American players more directly.

“There’s feelings,” Bradley said. “There’s a lot of things that go on. And a lot of things that you think about.”

Who can blame him for sharing so little about the subject? If he speaks out, he risks being seen as a “vocal” player or a “radical activist” or someone who could become a “distraction in the clubhouse,” words that baseball hates to chew on.

But it sure seems like Betts wasn’t a distraction in that Dodgers clubhouse, where he told his teammates Wednesday he wasn’t going to play but would support them fully if they wanted to play without him.

They didn’t. They wanted to support him. And they did.

“Black people have been fighting this same fight for centuries and we haven’t gotten anywhere,” Betts said. “Having the white players help push it, I think change can be made.”

Kershaw’s statement was powerful as he stood with Betts for the press conference.

“As a teammate of Mookie’s … as a white player on this team, how can we show support?” Kershaw said. “What’s something tangible we can do to help our Black brothers on this team? Once Mookie said he wasn’t going to play, that started our conversation as a team. We felt that was the best decision.”

Perhaps one day soon, a white teammate of Bradley’s will stand up and do the same.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.