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Mets, Marlins walk off field, choose not to play in protest of social injustice

The Mets and the Marlins stand on the

The Mets and the Marlins stand on the field at the start of their game before walking off in protest Thursday at Citi Field. Credit: AP/John Minchillo

The Mets and Marlins decided to join the sports world’s protests against police shootings and racial injustice by not playing their game at Citi Field on Thursday night.

They did so in a dramatic and powerful way.  

After an afternoon filled with confusion about whether the game was going to be played and an open-mic incident that eventually led to an apology from Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen, the Mets took the field at 7:10 p.m., led by Dominic Smith.

It was Smith — one of two Black players on the Mets’ 28-man roster — who held a poignant, tear-filed news conference a night earlier about his thoughts after the latest police shooting of a Black man.

Smith jogged out to leftfield and the rest of the Mets took their positions. Pitcher Michael Wacha took the mound even though he had not warmed up in the bullpen. He did not throw any warmup pitches from the mound, either, suggesting that this was an unusual moment for an unusual time.

The four umpires took their positions and Marlins leadoff batter Lewis Brinson was announced as the first batter in a game everyone on the field knew was not going to be played.

The remaining Mets and Marlins came out of their dugouts and removed their caps. Most bowed their heads. A moment of silence followed, lasting for 42 seconds.  

After the moment of silence, the Mets and Marlins waved their caps at each other and left the field.  

A Black Lives Matter T-shirt was left at home plate.

That the moment of silence lasted 42 seconds wasn’t an accident. Baseball color-line pioneer Jackie Robinson, who will be honored throughout MLB on Friday, wore uniform No. 42.  

Every game in every American sports league that was scheduled for Thursday was not played with the exception of three baseball games, two of them involving teams that postponed their games on Wednesday.

The point is to bring attention to police violence and racial injustice after Sunday’s shooting of 29-year-old Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Or, as Mets reliever Dellin Betances put it: “We’re just tired of all the injustice going on in the Black community. It’s time for a change and we’re using our platform as best as we can so we can make a change.”

Mets rightfielder Michael Conforto said the Mets made the decision to not play Thursday after a team meeting that began around 3 p.m.  

After some initial public confusion about their intentions, the Marlins agreed. A plan was developed between the opposing players.

“We’re definitely united in this decision,” Conforto said. “One-hundred percent from top to bottom . . . After seeing the comments Dom made [Wednesday] night – although it’s not just about Dom – it really touched all of us in the clubhouse, just to see how powerful his statements were, how emotional he was.”

Said Smith: “So many people have reached out. It’s been overwhelming.”

Smith, who became the first Met to kneel during the national anthem on Wednesday, stood with his teammates when the anthem was played on Thursday.

“This is way bigger than baseball,” Smith said. “This is life. This is humanity."

The Mets and Marlins are not scheduled to play again in the regular season, so this game will have to be made up at some point. The whole idea of when to reschedule the game was part of the open-mic moment involving Van Wagenen, who was caught on video criticizing baseball commissioner Rob Manfred for a perceived lack of leadership.

In what was supposed to be a private conversation with two unidentified individuals in the Mets’ Zoom interview room but was accidentally posted as a video on Mets.com and then shared all over the internet before being removed, the GM said: “Baseball’s trying to come up with a solution – the three of us here, can’t leave the room — [MLB is saying], ‘You know what would be super-powerful?’ — they’re saying, you know it would be really great if you just have them all take the field, then they leave the field, and then they come back and play at 8:10. And I was like, what?”

Van Wagenen was asked, “Who said that?” and he replied: “Rob. And with [Mets COO] Jeff [Wilpon], scheduling’s is going to be a nightmare and there’s so much at stake. And I said, ‘Jeff, that’s not happening. These guys are not playing.’ ”

Later, Van Wagenen said: “That’s Rob’s instinct and Rob — exactly what you and I were talking about — at the leadership level, he doesn’t get it. He just doesn’t get it.”

After the game was postponed, Van Wagenen issued a statement that said it was Wilpon’s suggestion to have the players come back out to play the game.

“My frustration with the Commissioner was wrong and unfounded,” Van Wagenen said in the statement. “I apologize to the Commissioner for my disrespectful comments and poor judgement in inaccurately describing the contents of his private conversation with Jeff Wilpon.”

Manfred – in a statement in which he did not mention Van Wagenen – said: “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.”

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