After a video surfaced of him criticizing Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred, New York Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen apologized Thursday for misconstruing the situation.
In a video widely circulated on social media, Van Wagenen said Manfred “doesn’t get it” when it comes to the players’ actions regarding their social-injustice movement. Games across baseball have been postponed Wednesday and Thursday following the shooting by a police officer of a Black man, Jacob Blake in Wisconsin on Sunday.
The criticism from Van Wagenen stemmed from the belief that Manfred wanted the Mets to stage a one-hour walkout Thursday in advance of their game against the Miami Marlins before returning to the field an hour later.
As it turned out, that idea was proposed to Manfred by Mets COO Jeff Wilpon.
“Over the past two days, players on a number of clubs have decided not to play games. I have said both publicly and privately that I respect those decisions and support the need to address social injustice,” Manfred said in a release Thursday. “I have not attempted in any way to prevent players from expressing themselves by not playing, nor have I suggested any alternative form of protest to any club personnel or any player. Any suggestion to the contrary is wrong.”
Van Wagenen tried to explain himself in his apology Thursday.
“Jeff Wilpon called commissioner Manfred this afternoon to notify him that our players voted not to play,” Van Wagenen said in a statement. “They discussed the challenges of rescheduling the game. Jeff proposed an idea of playing the game an hour later. I misunderstood that this was the commissioner’s idea. In actuality, this was Jeff’s suggestion. The players had already made their decision so I felt the suggestion was not helpful. My frustration with the commissioner was wrong and unfounded.”
Later, Wilpon added his own statement.
“To clear up any misunderstandings, it was my suggestion to potentially look into playing the game later because of scheduling issues. Brody’s misunderstanding of a private conversation was and is inexcusable. We fully respect our players and the Marlins players decision to not play tonight and appreciate the sincerity of all those who wish to draw attention to social injustices and racial inequalities that must be addressed. The entire Mets organization remains committed to creating meaningful change in our society.”
Mets owner Fred Wilpon, Jeff’s father, also chimed in with his own statement:
“I am very stressed and disappointed to learn tonight that our General Manager, Brodie Van Wagenen, made disrespectful and inaccurate comments about our commissioner, a long-time close friend of mine. I hold Rob in the highest regard, and in no way are Brody’s remarks reflective of my views or the organization’s. Rob continues to be a great leader of Major League Baseball. I apologize for any harm this incident has caused Rob.”
The Mets starters did take the field in full uniform Thursday. Both teams then lined up on the warning track in front of their dugouts and honored a 42-second moment of silence in honor of Jackie Robinson, the first Black man to play in the major leagues with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. A Black Lives Matter T-shirt was laid across home plate.
The teams then left the field and did not play. Players from both teams exchanged a wave of their caps toward each other.
Normally held in April, Friday is Jackie Robinson Day across baseball. It was rescheduled after the start of the season was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The decision from the Mets and Marlins to not play came a day after the Mets’ Dominic Smith was brought to tears while speaking about the concerns of being a Black man in today’s society. Smith took a knee during the national anthem before the Mets played the Marlins on Wednesday.
“I think the most difficult part is to see people still don’t care,” Smith said. “For this to just continuously happen, it just shows the hate in people’s heart. That just sucks, you know? Black men in America, it’s not easy.”
–Field Level Media