Tony Kemp arranged to have 60-70 shirts promoting his +1 Effect campaign sent to Oakland Coliseum during A’s training camp, enough for everyone on the team’s roster and staff.
The veteran second baseman may have ordered too many.
Matt Olson, Marcus Semien, Liam Hendriks, Jake Diekman and assistant hitting coach Eric Martins had already bought shirts on their own.
Kemp was moved by that. He’s relatively new to the A’s, an offseason signing who spent a few weeks with the Green and Gold before baseball shut down over the coronavirus pandemic.
He wasn’t sure how much immediate (and unsolicited) team support to expect when he started the +1 Effect, a campaign designed to snuff out racism one individual conversation at a time. That question mark was answered quickly, with manager Bob Melvin sent a text of support early in the process. Then he saw teammates lining up behind him.
“It was cool to see that they bought shirts on their own and are out supporting the cause,” Kemp said in a Monday video conference. “That’s a big deal. I’ve only been with this team for a couple of months now, and to see how people have been respecting and going after the campaign means a lot. It means your teammates have your back and have been supportive. I’m incredibly happy with that.”
Kemp pushed forward with a bold, time consuming and rewarding enterprise shortly after George Floyd was killed while in police custody. That prompted protests across the country and brought the underlying, systemic racism that exists here into mainstream consciousness.
Kemp pondered ways of joining the fight against racism and police brutality against Black Americans and decided to attack it through individual conversations. The +1 Effect quickly grew in popularity and was making an impact on an individual level. His Instagram inbox swelled as the press got hold of it, but Kemp has remained committed to this cause even with Kemp back to work in A’s camp.
“My wife and I were going through 120 message requests that I had on Instagram that we went through today,” Kemp said. “We’re still trying to push the ideas through and get our point across with the +1 campaign. It’s going well. You see a lot of people being changed. It’s a true blessing to impact people in the way that we have.”
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Those message requests don’t receive a pamphlet. They largely get a callback and a conversation trying to change minds about topics involved with racism plain to see and issues more covert.
"When you have conversations like this, you have to have an open mind and a calm spirit,” Kemp said. “If you just start yelling at each other or one person gets upset, you just have to remain calm. I think that’s how I have been getting through to people, by saying, ‘I hear you. I understand you. But please listen to this experience, maybe watch this documentary or read this book.’
“It’s all about your tone, honestly. Being able to relay that message to them, I think that has created a better understanding because conversations they normally have with someone of another point of view is that someone gets upset and storms out, and nothing gets accomplished. Being able to be open-minded and calm with these situations show where it has been going in a positive direction.”
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Kemp admits the campaign’s impact has exceeded original expectations and has fueled him to keep the effort going.
“It has been therapeutic to hear the responses and hear how people have been responding to it,” Kemp said. “It makes me feel great. it makes me feel that, with a platform and with a voice, you can tell people that they too have a voice even if they think they don’t. Being able to let people talk to their inner circles and understand that what we’re doing is very positive. I have been sleeping very well at night knowing that I feel like I have been helping change the world. I can say it has.”