When Jason Heyward decided not to play on Wednesday, joining a movement that swept across professional ports, he started a conversation within the Cubs clubhouse and community.
He and The Players Alliance took it a step further Friday.
The Players Alliance, a group of over 100 Black current and former professional baseball players, announced on Friday that its players collectively decided to donate their game-day salaries on Thursday and Friday to the Alliance. Those donations would go to combating racial inequality and supporting Black families and communities “deeply affected in the wake of recent events.”
The Cubs had Thursday off, but Heyward indicated that he still would be donating two games’ worth of his salary.
“The fact that we said, ‘Okay, well we're going to sit, we're not going to play this day,’” Heyward said, “we don't want it to come off as, 'Oh, we're going to do that and we're going to take a paycheck,’ or ‘We're doing this knowing that we can just do whatever we want and show up and know we're still going to get paid.’”
The NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks were the first to decide not to play Wednesday in protest, following the police shooting of Jacob Blake. They called for justice for Blake, who a Kenosha police officer shot seven times in the back in their home state of Wisconsin, and for police and criminal justice reform.
Similar demonstrations spread across sports. Between Wednesday and Thursday, 10 MLB games were postponed. Individual players like Heyward, the Cardinals’ Dexter Fowler and Jack Flaherty, and the Rockies’ Matt Kemp also sat out.
“So, the fact that we had that day that we sat,” Heyward continued, “today on Jackie Robinson Day to pay homage to him and to bring more awareness, it just felt fitting to move that way with it and to let people know that we're here, not because we have more money, and we're not doing this because of that.
“We're just doing this because we have a platform. And we do want to continue to give back with more than just saying that we don't feel like something's right. We've got to show up. We've got to have action to our words.”
Heyward said Theo Epstein, Cubs president of baseball operations, reached out to him on Friday afternoon. Epstein said he and Cubs president of business operations Crane Kenney also planned donate to The Players Alliance, and they would invite the rest of the front office to join them.
“Those are the things that they're doing to take action,” Heyward said.