In the wake of protests against racial injustice and police brutality across the country, Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein expressed his support for the Black Lives Matter movement in a conference call Monday.
"I'd like to start by offering my condolences to the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and the countless victims that keep losing their lives to racist violence in this country, year after year, decade after decade, century after century," Epstein said. "Echoing my colleagues at the Cubs, I'm standing up (in support) of the Black Lives Matter movement and the protesters who are doing their best to make this a real inflection point in our history.
"At this moment in time, silence in complicity. It's important that all of our voices are heard."
Recently, some former MLB players have expressed their belief that clubhouses are a difficult place to hold discussions about racial injustice and to push the conversation for progress forward. Epstein was moved by reading and hearing those comments, and he shared his vision for how change must occur.
He believes it starts with each person in a position of power looking inward, himself included.
"It's been really powerful and moving and eye-opening in some respects to read those articles and hear those testimonials from some of the very best and most important players in the game," Epstein said. "I think it really just reminds us and recent events have really just reminded us of the systemic nature of racism. What that means is that racism can show up in every one of our institutions. It means that it's there when you see it in a moment or not. It means that it's taught, learned and self-perpetuated. It also means that all of our individual attitudes, assumptions, actions and inactions are part of the problem on some level.
"What it means to me as a next step is, it means that it's certainly time to listen. We absolutely have been doing that and plan on doing that some more. We have listening sessions in the planning process for the front office, the baseball side, the business side, the major league team.
"I'm the white person who has had a lot of advantages in life. I can't begin to walk in the shoes of a black person in this country or a black player in Major League Baseball. But I think I can also look inward too. I that's another step that we all have to take in society as well as in the game -- is take a hard look at ourselves.
"It can be hard, it can be painful to look at ourselves, but when we have a problem that systemic, we all have to admit we're part of the problem. We all have to be better to become a part of the solution. So to the extent that clubhouses are not a (welcoming) place for black players, we should all be asking ourselves what we can do to fix that problem. To the extent that we don't have enough black general managers or black managers, I think we all need to look at ourselves, at our own practices. As I've looked inward, that's something that I need to find a place to be better (in).
"The majority of people that I hire, if I'm being honest, have similar backgrounds to me and look a lot like me. And that's something that I need to ask myself, why? I need to question my own assumptions, my own attitudes. I need to find a way to do better. If we all take that approach in the industry -- we need to. If there's one thing we've learned with systemic racism in general in this world, the system doesn't check itself. It's on each of us to take action and stand up and make some changes.
"If we all look inward, ask ourselves the hard questions and make some changes, I think that's how you address systemic issues and that's how you make things better. And hopefully, we will move forward and make positive change in all those areas, including making the clubhouse the welcoming place that it should be for all players. It's been really powerful to hear from those players on the subject."
Epstein later expanded on his thoughts about hiring practices and how to give minorities more opportunities in MLB.
"It's an issue that needs to be addressed on an individual level, a club level and a league-wide level," Epstein said. "And it's something we need to hold ourselves and each other accountable for, and I certainly plan to continue looking inward and question my own assumptions, my own attitudes and my own decision-making until I can do better. That's something that the Cubs, that's an area we can do better overall in. I know that (chairman) Tom (Ricketts) and (president of business operations) Crane (Kenney) have already reached out and are in the process of planning a diversity committee that can make sure we can set better standards for ourselves and hold ourselves accountable, to be better on this issue. And the league has protocols in place. Based on what the league has said about tackling this issue head on and needing to be better at this moment in time, I imagine that they're going to be re-doubling their efforts at the league-wide level as well.
"Protocols are nice, but results are better. We're just not (there). I think it's two African-American GMs and two African-American managers (in MLB) at the moment. It's not at a place where it needs to be. I think we all recognize that. I would expect you'll see better processes and results at all those levels of the game going forward."