Black Seattle Mariners players sat down with team broadcaster Dave Sims for a virtual panel discussion about their experiences as Black men in America and baseball.

The conversation features four of the 10 African-American players on the Mariners’ 40-man roster: infielders Dee Gordon, J.P. Crawford and Shed Long Jr., and outfielder Kyle Lewis. Sims, the moderator, is one of two African-American play-by-play broadcasters in Major League Baseball.

The discussion premieres on the club’s Youtube channel at 11 a.m. PDT Friday, which is Juneteenth, the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the official ending of slavery in the United States.

The Mariners players “spoke frankly about their experiences living in a racist society, their hopes for what we as a nation can be, and their apprehension about speaking up,” a team news release said.

Lewis revealed in the conversation that he was a target of racism when he was playing well during one minor-league season.

“There’s a ball in my locker that says, ‘learn to swim,’” Lewis said. “Nobody said anything. Everybody was sitting around tight-lipped. I wasn’t really getting a lot of support from my teammates, as if none of them supposedly knew what happened and somehow nobody had any idea. The only people that would have had access that deep into the locker room would have been probably a teammate. That stung pretty good.”

Gordon, one of the more popular Mariners, said in the discussion that there’s a culture of silence in baseball when it comes to speaking out on racism.

“We’re scared to say this,” Gordon said. “We’re nervous. The reason we’re nervous is we’ve been told our whole life and our whole careers don’t say anything. Don’t ruffle any feathers. Don’t, pretty much stand up for yourself as a man and for your family’s name.”

Conversations around systemic racism in America, particularly against Black people, have been ongoing nationwide since the death of George Floyd last month.

Floyd, an unarmed Black man, died in the custody of a white Minneapolis officer. The former officer, Derek Chauvin, faces second-degree murder charges after being caught on video pinning his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes as Floyd begged for air.


Ben Arthur covers sports for SeattlePI. He can be reached by email at @benyarthur.