Glenn Clark: Why I’ll Support Any Baltimore Athlete Who Sits Out 2020

I’m still not completely convinced there actually will be even as much as the 60-game MLB season that is set to be implemented by Major League Baseball.

We’ve been through far too much disagreement for me to think that suddenly this will all just simply come together without a formal agreement. I’m not sure that I would have been confident even if there had been a formal agreement, frankly.

But baseball might possibly be coming back … maybe. I can’t pretend to have some sort of celebratory reaction, in part because the season will be so wildly bastardized by a minimal number of games, in part because the reality of the moment has made so many of us wonder if playing baseball is even a good idea and, sure, in part because even during the span of eight weeks it’s hard to fathom the Orioles being particularly interesting.

With that in mind, I want to get ahead of something and offer a bit of a proactive take here.

Already this week, we’ve seen a few athletes decide not to participate in their respective pro sports for various reasons. Washington Mystics guard Natasha Cloud (who started her collegiate career at Maryland) will not participate in the WNBA’s shortened season so that she can remain on the front line of civil rights activism in the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Washington Wizards sharpshooter Davis Bertans simply decided that it wasn’t worth the risk for him to participate in the NBA’s Orlando restart after weighing his upcoming free agency, the potential for injury and (presumably) the Wizards’ long-shot chances of doing anything of note after the league returns to action.

While one is clearly more noble than the other, I’m understanding of both athletes’ decisions. Of course, that’s easier for me to say considering I neither cover nor “root” for either of those teams. But the conversation forced me to consider what my reaction would be should this hit closer to home. Considering MLB players have yet to support an agreement to play baseball this season, how would I react if an Orioles player (or multiple players) simply said, “Nah, I’ll pass?”

Or what if, despite the incredible opportunity the team may have to win the Super Bowl this season and the full salaries they’d be giving up in the process, a Baltimore Ravens player — even a prominent member of the team — made the decision that playing football this season wasn’t a risk they were willing to take or that their priorities were somewhere else at the moment?

I wouldn’t be totally dismissive of this possibility playing out in some capacity. And I think it’s important we make an absolutely definitive proactive statement before the conversation becomes necessary.

I, Glenn Clark, Baltimore sports fan, will completely support the decision of any local pro, college or high school athlete who might determine they don’t want to play sports in 2020, and I believe the teams should be supportive of any decision those athletes might make as well.

Considering the Orioles aren’t likely to be very good anyway and the consternation that has surrounded this potential return of baseball, I can’t fathom the scenario by which the fan base would be particularly bothered by a player’s decision not to play. At this point, I’m not even fully certain what Orioles fans might be looking forward to during the course of less than two full months of baseball. It’s hard to fathom there can be that much in the way of “development” in such a short window, so even a key prospect sitting out wouldn’t likely get us that worked up.

The Ravens, of course, are a totally different story. If there is an NFL season, there are hefty expectations for this group. The possibility of a key player choosing not to participate could be the singular difference in whether or not the team fulfills its potential Super Bowl destiny. We don’t even want to hypothetically consider the possibility of Lamar Jackson not being on the field for any reason at all.

And to be clear, I know no reason to think that Jackson or any Ravens player is even apprehensive about the physical risk of playing amid the pandemic. But if there is, particularly with the risk of a “second wave” while the initial wave continues to shake the country, I won’t allow selfish fandom to stand in the way of supporting fellow humans who want to do what’s best for themselves and their families. (Similarly, I won’t judge anyone who decides to play amid the pandemic, either. It’s a personal decision.)

And should players decide they would rather not play either because they believe their purpose is to be on the frontlines of the battle for civil rights or simply because they don’t want their participation in a sport to provide a distraction from the #BlackLivesMatter movement — because the idea of “normalcy” within society has long included systemic racism and that “normalcy” is no longer acceptable to them — I will not only understand but I will choose to celebrate those athletes.

But similarly, I will celebrate any athlete who believes his or her platform during the movement is even more significant while he or she plays.

I fully understand that sports play a significant role within our society and appreciate the attempts by those in the sports community to return to play, as the existence of those sports impacts far more than just the athletes and coaches involved. However, in this moment, I cannot hide from the idea that what’s at stake on multiple fronts is far more significant than not only any outcome of any game but even the economic impact of the games being played.

It may or may not even be a conversation we’ll have to have locally. But if we do, you won’t have to wonder where I stand. I will be completely supportive of any Baltimore athlete who might decide that the playing of games is secondary right now.

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox

Glenn Clark

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