Dodgers pledge to work on social justice causes with 'In This Together' initiative




 

Clayton Kershaw and his wife, Ellen, took notes from their kitchen. Joc Pederson listened attentively from his office. Ross Stripling asked questions from home, while Justin Turner jumped in while driving his car.

In all, 10 Dodgers players joined in on a virtual Zoom call Monday, listening to and learning from social activists. Days later, the group turned those lessons into action.

"Silence is no longer an option," Kershaw said in a video posted to the Dodgers' social media accounts Thursday, announcing an "In This Together" initiative that will raise funds for social justice causes. "I'm fighting for my teammates and their families and their communities. And that is why we must unapologetically say that Black Lives Matter."

All the players - including Alex Wood, Gavin Lux, AJ Pollock, Kiké Hernandez, Walker Buehler and Cody Bellinger - spoke in the video, which has received thousands of views and shares, echoing the sentiments shared during the Monday meeting with representatives from the Los Angeles-based Liberty Hill Foundation.

"They were asking questions like any student would to a teacher," said Julio Marcial, the foundation's senior director. "The teacher just so happened to be myself and four community leaders who have been doing this work for 20 years."

Under the initiative, the players will match funds raised through the sale of "In This Together" Dodgers T-shirts to support the California Funders for Boys and Men of Color, a coalition launched in 2014 that coordinates philanthropic efforts for the state's minority communities and promotes everything from educational equity to criminal justice reform.

"I'm proud to be a part of this," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said Thursday, wearing the branded shirt during his daily Zoom call. "Clayton and some other guys spearheaded this. They've been very intentional. They've been shaken. So for them to not only talk the talk, but walk the walk and lead by their actions is very commendable."

Marcial said the Dodgers players initially reached out to Liberty Hill, eager to become foot soldiers in the recently renewed fight for equality.

"Clayton Kershaw basically said, 'I'm done listening. I want to do something,' " Marcial said. "I was like, 'Great … but I want to be honest with you. We need people to move from ally to freedom fighter. Your role in change starts two steps past where you are comfortable.' "

That's when players began to ask the most questions during the Zoom call. Even though almost all of them have performed philanthropic work, they were still learning how to dedicate their efforts to causes of police brutality, societal discrimination and systemic racism.

"Be willing to engage and stay engaged with your time, your energy, your resources," Marcial told them. "Recognize this isn't a moment, but a commitment, and determine how committed you are."

Their answer came in the form of the video.

"They didn't have to do this," Marcial said. "The baseball season is around the corner and people are exhaling because something that feels good is coming back. And yet they don't want to take away from this moment."

The players are hoping to arrange trips to the organizations and communities across Los Angeles aided by their initiative once the pandemic subsides.

"[They said], 'We're not interested in a one-off," Marcial said. "We understand our learning is going to take some time."

But after even one day, the impact of their message had rippled. Marcial said each of the organizations he works with - who "can call bull" he said jokingly, and "know when people are faking" - called the Dodgers to say thank you.

Marcial's phone has been ringing too. Already, five other professional sports teams in Southland have reached out. They all saw the Dodgers' video. They all want to help.

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