Sharon Robinson says father, Jackie, would want MLB to play and use baseball as platform

Jordan Cohn
August 28, 2020 - 9:38 am

Jackie Robinson Day usually takes place on April 15, in honor of the day when Robinson made his major league debut and broke the color barrier. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the season was not being played on April 15.

Instead, Jackie Robinson Day will take place on Friday, August 28, which is a notable date for a number of reasons.

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It's also a notable date because of what is currently going on in the world of sports, and in America as a whole. Protests and boycotts have sprung up throughout several sports leagues, and Major League Baseball is no exception, as a number of teams have decided not to play in the wake of the police shooting of Jacob Blake. The Dodgers were one of the first teams to do so on Wednesday, and another heartfelt tribute was seen Thursday night between the Mets and the Marlins.

The moment of silence lasted 42 seconds in honor of Jackie Robinson.

It's absolutely understandable that many players would not want to play under these circumstances. For players like the Mets' Dominic Smith, it may be too difficult to focus on sports right now. There's no right or wrong way to feel as a Black athlete right now, or for any supportive athlete of any race or ethnicity, should they want to play or should they want to sit out.

Sharon Robinson, the daughter of Jackie, thinks that her father would be one of the athletes that would want to play. She joined Angelo Cataldi and the Morning Team on SportsRadio 94WIP to discuss Jackie Robinson Day and the boycotts across sports.

Sharon discussed how her father used baseball as a platform to spread his message, even after his playing career, speaking specifically of a ceremony honoring the 25th anniversary of his debut in what would ultimately be the last year of his life.

"He used that platform, once again, to push baseball, since they are the ones honoring him and that's where... his strength and his legacy is," Sharon said. "To move beyond the playing field, and move people of color into management... that was my dad. He was always pushing forward... for justice and equality. And he used even his last year of honors to do that."

Angelo then asked Sharon to clarify what this might mean for his views today.

"If your dad was still here, he would believe they should continue to play and use the stage of American sports to continue to assert the message of racial equality? Is that what I'm hearing from you this morning?" Angelo asked.

"You are, that's what you are hearing," Sharon confirmed. "And I feel this way, like I said, across the board. If we don't talk about it and we don't all care about it, things will not change. And it's got to be all of us working together to have this change."

Sharon also talked about how she felt her father's performance differed when he was suppressing his anger and feelings as opposed to when he became more vocal about his frustration as integration became more common throughout MLB.

"He found ways to use his aggression, or his anger, in positive ways," Sharon said. "So you saw a great baserunner, you saw him stealing home, you saw him batting lifetime .311... you know he didn't want anyone to feel sorry for him.

"... The first couple of years, he had to endure racist remarks and isolation and he also had a number of teammates who did stand up for him, and he had the love and support of the African American community and had many white fans who were also supportive. So it wasn’t a total negative, there was a lot of support and positivity that happened the first couple of years.

"But in 1949 when… we see other teams have now integrated, (Branch Rickey) released him from holding back his verbal response and what you saw was a much more aggressive and demanding Jackie Robinson, but you also saw a greater player. That’s the year he got his Most Valuable Player award, and I think... when we suppress people and their emotions, we don’t get the best out of them."

Sharon is encouraged by some progress that we've made in the world and throughout sports, including the promotion of Tony Reagins to Chief Baseball Development Officer. However, she is still disappointed of the constant pain people of color have to go through, and thinks her father would feel similarly.

"I think he would feel disappointment," Sharon said after Angelo asked her about what Jackie would think today. "Yes, we've made some advances. But the fact that we are watching, witnessing on television, Black men, Black women being murdered, it takes us back to... lynching days. That's how painful it is for Black Americans and for Hispanics.

"Yes, we've made some progress, but... this country is more divided than we've experienced in many years. So we have a lot of work to do, and my dad would be pressing for us to work towards equity and justice in this country."

Listen to the full interview below.

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