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Ex-Gonzaga ace Marco Gonzales, other regional athletes speak out in wake of pro sports boycotts

UPDATED: Wed., Aug. 26, 2020

Former Gonzaga standout Marco Gonzales and his Seattle Mariners teammates didn’t wait long before deciding against playing on Wednesday.  (Associated Press)
Former Gonzaga standout Marco Gonzales and his Seattle Mariners teammates didn’t wait long before deciding against playing on Wednesday. (Associated Press)

Marco Gonzales’ arm did most of the work for the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday night during an 8-3 win over the San Diego Padres.

Almost 24 hours later, the sixth-year player from Gonzaga, who’s carved out a role as the Mariners’ top starting pitcher, felt it was important to use another one of his most important assets as a professional athlete.

Gonzales, like many of his Seattle teammates, didn’t wait long to assert his voice after the Mariners and Padres mutually decided not to play Wednesday’s interleague game at Petco Park – one of four on the MLB slate that was boycotted as a gesture to Jacob Blake, the 22-year-old African American man who was shot in the back by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, sparking nationwide protests and outrage around topics of racial injustice and police brutality.

 

“I am extremely proud to be a part of this group,” Gonzales tweeted. “We have listened, loved, and supported one another through this tough time. But I’m heartbroken for my brothers and teammates who fear for their lives and their families lives on a daily basis.

“This isn’t about baseball right now. It’s about justice, equality, and understanding. Thank you to our @Mariners family for supporting us and standing up for what’s right.”

Gonzales also shared a tweet from teammate Dee Gordon in which the Mariners’ standout utility player referenced the “serious issues in this country.” Gordon suggested Seattle voted unanimously not to play Wednesday, tweeting, “For me, and for many of my teammates, the injustices, violence, death and systemic racism is deeply personal. This is impacting not only my community, but very directly my family and friends.”

The Angels at Houston, Cincinnati at Milwaukee and the Dodgers at San Francisco were also postponed.

Gonzaga Athletic Director Mike Roth touched on racial injustice during a phone interview with The Spokesman-Review Wednesday night, acknowledging racial issues still exist even as the United States grows more diverse.

“It’s a much more diverse society – especially in metropolitan areas, but even in some rural communities – than it has ever been in this country, and yet we still have racial issues,” Roth said. “The dream that we have to have right now is that we get to the point where color, creed, race and religion no longer matter.”

Roth referenced the 1968 Summer Olympics, when two African American athletes, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, each raised a black-gloved fist in the air while standing on the podium, making one of the first prominent racial protests in the history of the modern Olympics.

“I’m old enough to remember the ’68 Olympics and the unrest we were feeling politically across the nation, and it felt like that particular moment with those athletes was so important,” Roth said. “But we also have to remember that it wasn’t viewed nearly as positive at the time as it is now because the nation probably wasn’t ready for that kind of change and statement.”

What transformed into a historic day for professional sports in the U.S. began when the Milwaukee Bucks announced they’d be boycotting Game 5 of their Eastern Conference playoff series against the Orlando Magic. Two Western Conference playoff games, between the Portland Trail Blazers and Los Angeles Lakers, and Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets, were also postponed.

Stadium.com’s Shams Charania later reported the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers, the presumptive favorites in the Western Conference, voted to boycott the remainder of the season after a player-led meeting in Orlando, Florida.

Former Washington State player Klay Thompson, who didn’t suit up for the Golden State Warriors this season due to injury, used Twitter to commend Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers for a heartfelt interview after their playoff game against the Dallas Mavericks in which Rivers said, among other things, “It’s amazing to me why we keep loving this country and this country does not love us back.”

“Thank you for this Doc !,” Thompson tweeted. “So powerful and nothing but facts! My prayers go out to Jacob & his family, and to the ones on the frontlines in Kenosha demanding justice !”

Former Gonzaga center Brandon Clarke, who recently played in the NBA’s bubble with the Memphis Grizzlies, shared tweets from teammates Ja Morant and Tyus Jones demanding change.

Current Gonzaga player Anton Watson tweeted, “Bigger than sports! WE DEMAND CHANGE” Wednesday night.

Not long after the NBA postponed its Wednesday games, the WNBA announced it wouldn’t play any of the three games on its schedule, though players from the Washington Mystics, Atlanta Dream, Los Angeles Sparks and Minnesota Lynx still met on the court and kneeled shoulder-to-shoulder out of solidarity.

 

Former Gonzaga star Courtney Vandersloot isn’t scheduled to play for her Chicago Sun until Thursday, but she shared an ESPN tweet capturing the Mystics wearing white T-shirts with Blake’s name spelled out on the front and seven holes covering the back, representing the number of times the 29-year-old man was shot.

Washington State guard Isaac Bonton used social media to comment on the Blake incident Tuesday, tweeting, “I see all these comments about not resisting and instead just lay down and abide to the officers…. POLICE DONT NEED TO KILL ANYBODY THAT ISNT ENDANGERING THEIR LIVES. YALL NOT UNDERSTANDING THAT POINT!”

Idaho football released a short statement from coach Paul Petrino Wednesday morning: “Another tragic shooting. We have to do better! We have to change! Thoughts and prayers to Jacob Blake and his entire family.”

Whitworth President Beck Taylor responded to the Bucks’ initial boycott, tweeting, “This action resonates with me and it is consistent with other acts of civil disobedience in light of the shooting of Jacob Blake. The Bucks are the team of Kenosha, Wisconsin. #BLM”

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