The film shows clips of Robinson playing and marching for social justice along with other Black major league players. as well as footage of historic marches interspersed with present-day protests.
“I cannot say I have it made while our country drives full speed ahead to a deeper rift between men and women of varying colors, speeds along a course towards more and more racism,” Betts says in the film. “Life is not a spectator sport. If you’re going to spend your whole life in the grandstands just watching what goes on, in my opinion, you’re wasting your life.”
“Until every child can have an equal opportunity in youth and manhood; until hunger is not only immoral but illegal; until hatred is recognized as a disease, a scourge, an epidemic and treated as such; until racism and sexism are conquered; until that day, Jackie Robinson and no one else can say he has it made,” Betts says. “There’s not an American in the country free until every one of us is free.”
Jackie Robinson Day is usually celebrated April 15 to commemorate the day the iconic player broke MLB’s color barrier in 1947, but the novel coronavirus pandemic drastically altered MLB’s 2020 schedule. The league chose Aug. 28 because it is the 57th anniversary of the March on Washington, and is exactly 75 years after Dodgers General Manager Branch Rickey met with Robinson to discuss becoming MLB’s first Black player.
“Jackie Robinson Day definitely feels a little different today than it has in a long time,” Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Andrew McCutchen said Friday. “We’re not only celebrating Jackie Robinson Day as the person he was, breaking the color barrier, really being the start of the whole civil rights movement. He always stood for what he believed in. It’s come full circle. Ultimately, I feel like that’s what we’re doing right now.”
“I want to thank Jackie Robinson for all the sacrifice and hard work he put in to break the barriers for so many minorities across the world,” said Smith, whose Mets participated in a moment of silence and walked off their home field along with the Miami Marlins in protest Thursday. “Without Jackie, I wouldn’t be here, and I can’t thank him enough. And with all his perseverance, hard work, he inspired me and the next generation to come. Happy Jackie Robinson Day, and I hope to make him proud.”
MLB retired Robinson’s No. 42 across the league in 1997, but allowed players who wore that number at the time to continue to do so until their retirement. Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera was the last to wear No. 42 in 2013. Each year on Jackie Robinson Day, every player across the major leagues wears No. 42.
This year, the Houston Astros and Oakland Athletics did something different with their No. 42 jerseys. The AL West rivals lined up along their respective foul lines while Astros catcher Martin Maldonado placed a No. 42 Houston Astros jersey in the left-handed batter’s box and Athletics shortstop Marcus Semien placed an Oakland version in the right-handed batter’s box. Like the Mets and Marlins before them, both teams then observed a moment of silence and then exited to their clubhouses in a continuation of the protests that began Wednesday in the wake of Jacob Blake’s shooting by police in Kenosha, Wis.
“The Houston Astros players, with support from the Oakland players, have decided to postpone tonight’s game. We support their decision to make a strong statement in support of the fight for racial equality. We are proud of our players’ efforts to use their voices to drive necessary change. The Astros and A’s will proudly celebrate Jackie Robinson Day tomorrow when play is resumed.”
Betts decided not to play in Wednesday’s game but planned to support his teammates. The team instead supported Betts, and played a doubleheader against San Francisco on Thursday.
Clayton Kershaw, who pitched six scoreless innings in Game 1 of the doubleheader, offered his support to the only Black player on the Dodgers.
“As a White player on this team … how do we show support? What’s something tangible that we can do to help our Black brothers on this team?” Kershaw said. “Once Mookie said that he wasn’t going to play that really started our conversation as a team of what we could do to support that.”
Jackie Robinson Day wound down on an especially somber note when news broke late Friday that actor Chadwick Boseman, who portrayed Robinson in the 2013 film “42,” died at age 43 as a result of a four-year battle with colon cancer.