We’re a polarized country. When I joined the call of many in encouraging everyone, and in my case, especially baseball players, to use their platform to speak up this summer on racism and inequality, and then to vote this November, it was not without controversy. Many feel that athletes should stay quiet on political matters and particularly on topics that tend to be the most divisive. We have heard “stick to sports” and the longing for that simpler time for a while now. In fact, fans are not alone in feeling this way. Some inside clubhouses and locker rooms do as well. Some would prefer to not wade into the issues; others feel pressure to say something but worry about saying the wrong thing.
The reality is the time of being safely silent about important matters has passed. Our society now requires us to move outside our comfort zone and have difficult conversations. There is judgement passed on the inaction of those in the spotlight and remaining quiet is as much of a choice as speaking out.
Although I feel for those most uncomfortable with this change, I think it will ultimately benefit the people most in need of us using our voices as well as our country as a whole. Societally and as individuals, we develop, grow and change through robust conversation. It is for this reason that I’m encouraged by today, even in light of the recent widespread violence. Yes, things will change. Yes, I know that many are unhappy about the results of the election and today’s official change in power. But process is important, and I think the process that President Biden and Vice President Harris are committed to is encouraging. I see two people who have consistently and over a long period of time demonstrated that they collaborate, that they surround themselves with advisors who are experts in their field, that they will listen to those experts and that they will adapt and adjust based on the voices in the room.
I believe development doesn’t stop when we reach the highest levels. It’s important at every stage of our lives and careers, and it’s especially important for our political leaders. Vice President Kamala Harris’ career began as a prosecutor in San Francisco and later as District Attorney. Under her leadership, the DA’s office obtained a significant number of non-violent marijuana convictions, most of which were later expunged as California legalized marijuana medically and later recreationally. She now supports decriminalizing or legalizing marijuana at the federal level. She has demonstrated the wisdom and maturity to grow, to understand her role and how her advocacy needs to change. Regardless of whether we agree on individual issues, I respect anyone who is open to compromise and willing to adapt without becoming stubborn or dug in.
President Biden evolved most notably in the last 9 months. He has had his finger on the pulse of the American people and understood the needs of the time. He is willing to work as part of a team. Biden took advice in real time during the campaign at his rallies and in interviews. He participated in debate prep and in strategy sessions. He has said he will put together expert teams for the issues facing our country and our world. Some see this as weak. I see it as the opposite. Watching the new leader of our country accept guidance from those more educated than him in real time instills confidence. Joe Biden shouldn’t be expected to know everything at every turn. Baseball managers have pitching coaches, hitting coaches, infield, outfield and baserunning experts. Football coaches have offensive and defensive coaches, and coaches for every position on the field. And they both have players between the lines. That’s us as citizens. We are the players.
The best leaders are the ones who assemble the best teams. He’s going to need his circle and his country to speak up, and he’s going to need to be a good listener and follower. It’s fair to say that he isn’t the president without a very strong team. He will be a good president because he’ll allow others to take control of the wheel at times. He’ll need to embrace that, he’s demonstrated that he can, and he will.
I will not agree on every policy decision made by the Biden/Harris administration. Neither will you. We won’t agree on every policy decision made by any administration to come, just as we haven’t agreed with every decision made by any administration we’ve had. But it will be a successful administration for our country because they will act like a team. No administration is just the two names on the ticket, and every administration, just like every sports franchise and every major company, has enough intellectual firepower and ample courage to make changes if they choose. Relying on one person is an impossible, archaic system that we would do well to eliminate as quickly as possible. This group knows that our country demands a leadership style that leverages the talents, expertise and experience of a diverse group. The number of girls and black and brown children that can now look to the office of Vice President and see someone who looks like them holding that office is a win alone. Having a group in office who has demonstrated that they will listen to us, the people, and act differently based on our needs, is a win. Having people who won’t feel beholden to policies they held in the past just because they held them previously is a win.
Even with the recent events in our Capitol, I believe we are developing for the better as a country. We are developing as people. So are President Biden and Vice President Harris. They are taking control of the White House and the country’s trajectory at least in part because of their process this summer. This administration is imperfect, they know it, they’ll ask for our help, and they’ll be good leaders as a result. It’s going to be a tough 4 years. It always is. We’ll step up and give them help and support, and the United States will benefit greatly from acting like a team.
Winston Wong says
You’re as thoughtful and reflective as any professional in sports. (Except maybe Steve Kerr. : ). ). Thanks for all your important message, and wishing you the best for the 2021 baseball season. We are proud of you as the manager of the San Francisco Giants.
Gavin Mogan says
Right on Money.
Dawn T. says
Very well said!
Gavin Mogan says
Kap, I agree with all this. But your writing has set a certain standard. Could be just me but I didn’t feel this one. Political content is hard, man. How do you say what hadn’t already been said? I learned a lot from challenges you’ve given to me. Compare this with some of your early stuff. That was game changer. Your last piece definitely showed you still have it. Seeing your articles pop up again is a treat. I sure hope this pushes you to write more, not less!
Kristin D. says
Extraordinarily well written.
Thank you for an incredible season
A lot of people enjoy watching sports because it gives them a place to be free from the drama and conflicts of the real world. We find camaraderie and unity with others in it. But when sports figures drag the real world back into it by using their platform in ways that divide, it’s hubris and ego and imagined self-importance on display.
In the political realm, people make up their own minds based upon what aligns more with their value system. It is your God given right to speak out, but don’t be fooled, you’re not changing minds by speaking out, you’re just creating conflict with something you have no control over.
So the idea of “shut up and play” might seem rude and abrupt when stated that way, but in the end, it is where you do have control. You have the ability to unite people by bringing them into that safe place where they can forget about the troubles of the world at least for a little while. How you cannot see that is mind boggling.
How would you fee if you went to buy a car, or a house, or a cheeseburger, and the salesperson started telling you about their gripes with society and their political beliefs? You’d probably say, make me a cheeseburger. Take that to heart.
James Pointer says
I Disagee totally with esteemed Bradley. While sports have provide respite for some from the noise of politics, it’s important that sports figure speak out-for several reasons. The best reason is that when fans, including young fans, see the athletes that they admire speak the truth about racism, gun control, or any politicized issue, they are likely to listen more closely than they would otherwise. Socail media provides access to unvetted lies and misinformation. How better to deliver a message that from the brain of a respected sports star? Second, sports cannot ever be free from politics. The women and men and boys and girls who play sports ARE who we are. They are black, gay, Ukanian, young, and old. Sports figures have a right and responsibility to speak out. They are part of who we are. Bradley, you may have already made up your mind, and Gabe will tell you to go easy on the cheese burgers. It sounds to me, my friend, that you just don’t like Gabe’s message.