In the wake of nationwide protests sparked by the murder of George Floyd at the hands of four Minneapolis police officers, Andrew McCutchen, Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins have all spoken out recently on racism and police brutality in America.
McCutchen co-penned a USA Today op-ed piece with other prominent sports figures on reforming police accountability. Howard and Rollins participated in a panel discussion moderated by former Phillie and Doug Glanville with other retired black MLB players for The Athletic.
McCutchen, along with Gregg Popovich, Steve Kerr, Anquan Boldin and Demario Davis outlined what it would take to transform policing in America. For them, it starts with making it easier for police chiefs to remove bad officers and ending qualified immunity, which absolves police and government officials from punishment if there is no clearly established court ruling that states what they had done is in violation of the constitution.
“We cannot wait to change hearts and minds — too many people will die while we try. We need to transform American policing now. We need changes that will actually alter behavior, prevent officers from harming people with impunity, and allow officials to hold officers and departments accountable when they do.”
“When we watch people like George Floyd or Eric Garner get choked to death, it is hard to be filled with anything but the utmost despair. But our anger and frustration will not stop police violence. There are meaningful changes that would allow us to police these officers, not just the other way around. We must ensure that victimizing our fellow citizens brings real consequences.”
Howard and Rollins, along with Glanville, Dontrelle Willis, Torii Hunter and LaTroy Hawkins participated in a 90-minute discussion on The Athletic. Topics included racism in both MLB and around the country as well as their reaction to Floyd’s death.
Both Howard and Hunter shared stories on their personal encounters with police. Hunter was once held at gunpoint in his own home only for officers to ask for tickets to an Angels game after the fact. Howard had an encounter with police between ’07 and ’08 in Philadelphia that he detailed in the discussion.
“We had just gotten home from a road trip,” Howard said. “It was like 3 or 4 in the morning. We’re leaving the park. I live downtown. I’m in my Escalade. I’ve got the big rims on it, 26-inch rims, windows tinted.
“Everybody knows what the police car lights look like. I’m like, ‘OK, let me act right because this cop is right behind me. I’m going to try and let this dude pass.’ We pull up to the same light. He pulls up next to me. I’m going left. He’s going right. The light turns green, boom, my signal is on, I’m doing everything proper. I make my left turn. He sits there at the light. Two seconds later, boom, he makes the left and follows me. Pulls me over and asks for a license, registration, the whole nine yards.
“I said, ‘Officer, can you tell me what I was doing?’ He said, ‘Well, I ran your plates and nothing came back.’ I was like, ‘Isn’t that a good thing? I didn’t speed, didn’t run any lights. I wasn’t doing anything crazy, but you felt the need to pull me over.’ Then another police officer pulled up, a black police officer. He went over to the dude and said, ‘You know who that is?’ He came over and talked to me, the dude wound up leaving.
“I said, ‘Look, man, if I’m breaking a law, I don’t care who I am, what I do, that don’t matter. If I’m running a light or not signaling and you pull me over, that’s fine. But when he tells me he pulled me over because he ran my tag and nothing came back what am I supposed to do?’ The black officer said, ‘Yeah, that dude has done that a few times.’ He ended up getting reprimanded by his superiors. But when you have people like that working in that capacity, what can you do?”
Glanville closed the discussion by asking the group where they would like the world to be in regards to race in the future. Rollins’ response was powerful.
“I would like to see pure opportunity, Rollins said. “Put me in position to show you I’m smart enough, that we’re smart enough. Let me bring up other people. Opportunity and education is great. But that big table, that’s where we need to be. They will give us opportunity to move around, snake around, get to a certain level. But then it’s cut off. That’s it. You’re not going to get higher than that. Put us at the top of the top. Put us in that 1 percent and let us try to do it.
“We did it once. We had Black Wall Street in Tulsa, Oklahoma. We were getting too wealthy. They came and burned that down. If they actually let us show what we can do, we’ll be equal. And they will see that. But they will never let us be more than three-fifths of a man, period. Point blank.”
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