Colorado Rockies outfielder Ian Desmond says he is opting out of the 2020 MLB season due to the health and safety risks of playing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Desmond, who played seven seasons for the Nationals before joining the Texas Rangers in free agency, also said baseball's labor wars, cheating scandals, clubhouse homophobia, racism, and sexism contributed to his decision to skip the shortened season.
"The COVID-19 pandemic has made this baseball season one that is a risk I am not comfortable taking," he wrote on Instagram.
"With a pregnant wife and four young children who have lots of questions about what's going on in the world, home is where I need to be right now,'' Desmond's post read. "Home for my wife, Chelsey. Home to help. Home to guide. Home to answer my older three boys' questions about Coronavirus and Civil Rights and life. Home to be their Dad.''
Desmond would have been due about $5.5 million for the prorated share of his $15 million salary after signing a five-year, $70 million contract with Colorado, according to The Associated Press. He joins Nationals veteran Ryan Zimmerman and starting pitcher Joe Ross and Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Mike Leake as MLB players have announced they will not play in 2020.
Desmond began the post by saying he felt the need to speak up after seeing the image of the police killing of George Floyd, writing, "The image of officer George Floyd, the gruesome murder of a Black man in the street at the hands of a police officer, broke my coping mechanism. Suppressing my emotions became impossible."
He added his decision to speak came after seeing the now dilapidated baseball fields he played on as a kid in Sarasota, Florida.
“Why can’t we support teaching the game to all kids — but especially those in underprivileged communities?” Desmond wrote. “Why aren’t accessible, affordable youth sports viewed as an essential opportunity to affect kids’ development, as opposed to money-making propositions and recruiting chances? It’s hard to wrap your head around it.”
"I had the most heartbreak and the most fulfillment right there on those fields — in the same exact place. I felt the hurt of racism, the loneliness of abandonment, and so many other emotions."
He also called out the clubhouse culture in MLB.
“Think about it: right now in baseball we've got a labor war. We've got rampant individualism on the field. In clubhouses we’ve got racist, sexist, homophobic jokes or flat-out problems,” Desmond wrote. “We’ve got cheating. We’ve got a minority issue from the top down. One African American GM. Two African American managers. Less than 8% Black players. No Black majority team owners.”
"Perhaps the most disheartening of all is a puzzling lack of focus on understanding how to change those numbers. A lack of focus on making baseball accessible and possible for all kids, not just those who are privleged enough to afford it," he writes.
"If baseball is America's pastime, maybe it's never been a more fitting one than now."