Dodgers manager Dave Roberts is normally one to avoid speaking publicly about issues off the diamond.
“I’ve always shied away from using my voice outside of being a ballplayer, and getting out of, essentially, my lane,” he said.
But over the last nine months, events across the country have hit home for Roberts. He is the biracial son of an African American father and Japanese mother, and topics of racial injustice and recent attacks against Asian Americans were too much to ignore.
He stood with his team last summer to protest the police shooting of Jacob Blake, and in recent days, he has sent a message to the entire Dodger organization, condemning the violence and hatred that has been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.
The email he sent, addressed to “All My Teammates,” began with a clear and unambiguous statement:
“Over the past year, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of hate crimes against Asian Americans and the Pacific Islander community. In recent months, those attacks have intensified and have targeted the elderly in California and New York – such bullying is cowardice.”
Speaking with The Athletic, Roberts said the words of former NBA star Jeremy Lin led him to speak out.
“I have just come to a peace about speaking out about things that I believe are right,” Roberts said. “And this particular situation towards Asians, Asian Americans, is something that obviously affects me personally, having a mother from Okinawa, Japan. Seeing what’s going on in our country, I just felt that I wanted to internally put something together for our organization, showing my support toward Asian Americans in our organization and acknowledge what’s going on in our country and around the world that I just don’t believe is right.”
Roberts himself is a native of Japan, and grew up mostly in the San Diego area. Lin’s emotional social media post was a call to action against bigotry, revealing that he has been called “coronavirus” while playing with his current team.
“Something is changing in this generation of Asian Americans,” Lin’s post read. “We are tired of being told that we don’t experience racism, we are tired of being told to keep our heads down and not make trouble … So here we are again, sharing how we feel. IS ANYONE LISTENING??”
Lin’s words led Roberts to contact Scott Akasaki, the Dodgers’ traveling secretary, a Nikkei executive who has been with the team for years. The two sent out the email soon thereafter.
Though the Dodgers don’t currently have any Asian American players on the roster, Roberts notes his place in the large communities of color in the Los Angeles area, and the importance of calling out injustice and racism.
“I just felt that if any organization should be the first to speak out about this, it should be us,” Roberts told The Athletic. “It’s great to know that the Dodgers organization supports my views, and for us to collectively be aligned is important. Unilaterally, we have a message that should be heard by all.”
Akasaki said the response he has received from staff has been unilaterally positive.
“They said that Dave’s letter meant so much to them, because for one of the first times, they felt seen and they felt heard,” Akasaki said.