BOSTON - Orioles center fielder Adam Jones has heard the praise and he expects some pushback for comments appearing this morning in a USA Today article regarding minorities in baseball and how it’s a “white man’s sport.”
Jones spoke yesterday with reporter Bob Nightengale about San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick sitting, and later kneeling, for the national anthem during the NFL exhibition season. The topic extended to baseball and why its players don’t take a similar stance in protest.
African-Americans comprise only 8 percent of baseball, as Jones pointed out. He also stated that he will continue to stand for the anthem.
Here’s the USA Today article.
Jones stood behind his words today while meeting with the media outside the visiting clubhouse at Fenway Park.
On whether he was quoted accurately:
“I said exactly what Mr. Nightengale wrote and I think he did a great piece on it. I think the headline might have grabbed the wrong attention early, but I think I elaborated and what I believe to be is what I’ve seen. My education in 13 years in professional baseball. I’ve accomplished a lot in this game, knock on wood, but there’s more to accomplish. I’ve gotten a lot of love and good responses from around the league, around baseball, around this business that we do. Other media entities, other media people. Just about, ‘I’m glad you spoke the truth.’
“Is everybody going to agree with what I say? No. Why? Because I’m sticking up for people who don’t have the voice. Fortunately, I have the voice, I have the reach and I think it was time for it to be said. It was the wrong time because we’re in Boston at this time, but I don’t take anything back. I think that I said it very eloquently and I don’t think I showed any disrespect toward anybody or any person.”
On why he chose now to speak up: “We were talking about it and he came up with the Kaepernick question and something clicked in my head and I thought, ‘This is the perfect time and the perfect outlet,’ because obviously with USA Today there’s a big reach. To me, personally, it was just the perfect time and I was just in the heat of it. It was right after a game and I was in the heat of it. I’m glad it came out the way it did. I just think the title grabbed the wrong attention at first, but I read it this morning and what I said was the truth. And many baseball players reached out to me.
“I know there’s been a lot of people in social media - you read MASN’s blogs and all that kind of stuff - they’re just expressing their anguish. A lot of people say, ‘I’m boycotting Camden Yards until you’re released.’ But you can’t handle the truth. I backed it up with stats, and we’re a numbers game right now. Baseball is numbers. Everybody wants to talk analytical. I gave numbers, I gave facts, and you still get the anguish and the hate and the disgust. But at the end of the day, I know I’ve got the respect of my peers. And words can’t hurt me, so it doesn’t bother me.”
On how he has a forum to express his opinions: “At the end of the day I’m one of the most well-known black players in baseball. There’s 58 or 59 of us and I’m one of the most known. There’s (Andrew) McCutchen and obviously David Price and the Heywards, Fowlers, Edwin Jackson, the Upton brothers. There’s a lot of them. (CC) Sabathia. The list is going to keep going on. But for me it was the right time. I know all those guys have spoken up at some point in time.
“Here’s my biggest thing is, society doesn’t mind us helping out the hood and the inner cities, but they have a problem when we speak about the hood and the inner cities. I don’t understand it.”
On whether the numbers can get better: “The numbers have been going down. Baseball’s not like the stock market in terms of numbers going up and down. At the end of the day, myself, other guys around baseball, baseball programs, we’re trying to get baseball back in the inner cities as much as we can, influence what we can. At the end of the day, it’s up to the kids and up to the parents and what we show them on TV, what’s all over TV.
“Right now, it’s playoff races going on in the American League. The NL is kind of wrapped up besides the wild card and you see if there’s an hour of TV, there’s probably 45 minutes worth of football. Just because you know football runs what’s going on. So, if you’re a kid watching SportsCenter, what are you going to pay attention to?”
On hearing from other players: “(They say,) ‘I’m glad you said it. You actually had the (nerve) to say it. I respect everything you said and you’re right on.’ Just a lot of love and a lot of people said, ‘You said it eloquently.’ That was a word that was used a lot today, ‘eloquently.’
“I’m not a college educated person, but one thing this game has rewarded me and afforded me is knowledge of life. We’re athletes, and I just think (because) we make a lot of money, and we just talk about sports all day. We know nothing else about life. I believed that when I was 23, 24, 25. In the process of buying a house, how many 23 year olds are in that realm? I’ve educated myself on that. I’ve educated myself on the process of certain things.
“Am I a rocket scientist? No, but, at 31 years old I’ve done a lot more in terms of what adults do than most people have because the 20s are usually spent messing around, making mistakes. The 30s are when people get serious. I had to get serious starting at 18. Most athletes have to be serious starting at 18. You go to college, you can be serious there or start at 22. Those 20s are those fun years. The 30s are when, OK, let me settle down with a family. That’s not the case with baseball or any sport. We have to just live under an umbrella because we’re in the spotlight and that educates us, which people don’t want to hear us talk about. ‘You’re just an entertainer.’ We get all that, but at the same time, we understand what’s going on, especially in the world.
“Sometimes, we just need to talk about it. We’re the ones people listen to. We’re the ones people bet on all the time. This was the right opportunity. I knew I’m going to get backlash from it. That’s just part of it whenever you speak up, but at the end of the day, if more conversations are being started, I’m happy about it.”
On impact of calling baseball a white man’s sport: “As I said, the headline grabbed a strong attention. People just are thinking, ‘Let’s just see the article, what Adam’s going to talk about.’ They’re going to say, ‘Oh, Adam, black man talking about white people. Let’s see where this is going.’ It already altered people’s minds.
“There’s nothing about me racist. I just stated the simple fact. Baseball is numbers. It’s eight percent black. I didn’t make that up. In football, basketball, the numbers are in the 60s and 70s. These aren’t made up numbers. It just is what it is. I’m part of the eight percent. I can’t change that. I can’t do anything else about that.
“I just stated the numbers and the facts and the numbers in society right now and sports, people get mad that I offered them numbers when every single day, they throw numbers at me.”
On how he’ll always stand for the anthem: “I stand for that for multiple reasons. I’ve got my dad, 22 years, my brother still active in the military. I stand for more than one reason. The American flag and national anthem and all that, you go deeper. That part of it is not why I stand.”
On how he wanted to create a dialogue: “Exactly. I’m not going to do anything like that during the anthem. But also I stand for something different than the anthem. We are Americans. Our First Amendment right. When we speak out, we get backlash. I thought we had the First Amendment. So I’m using my First Amendment and I’m using it in a respectful manner. I can be a (jerk) with it big-time, but I’m not. I’m using it in a respectful manner. I just hope people educate themselves on the process. This is a long process.”
“I didn’t gain book smarts, I gained reality smarts. You can’t just say that, ‘Oh, you just play a sport, just stick to it.’ You can’t do it. It’s educating, no matter how you want to look at it.
“You guys have been around me and seen me evolve as a man, husband, player, father. You know I’m not just speaking out of the side of my neck just because I have forum. I’m doing it because I understand.
“There’s going to be backlash. Of course there is, because people don’t like the truth, I just gave the truth.”