As social-justice activists and supporters around the nation joined the family of slain teen Michael Brown—gunned down by now-former Ferguson, Mo., Police Officer Darren Wilson—to commemorate the anniversary of his death one year ago Sunday and the global movement it sparked, the Staten Island Yankees, a minor-league baseball team in New York City, held a “Blue Lives Matter” event under the guise of honoring police officers killed in the line of duty.
One of the most high-profile cases of police brutality, the choke hold death of 43-year-old Eric Garner at the hands of Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo, took place in Staten Island July 17 of last year.
Tickets for Sunday’s game, first announced in March, were $25, and the first pitch was thrown out by the families of Detective Wenjian Lui and Detective Rafael Ramos, both members of the New York City Police Department, who were killed in the line of duty in December of last year.
Their deaths prompted members of the NYPD to refuse to do their alleged jobs—protecting citizens and not profiling and shooting them. They, instead, grabbed their batons and went home. On Sunday, “Blue Lives Matters” wristbands were passed out to all attendees at the gate as they trooped in to watch the Staten Island Yankees take on the Brooklyn Cyclones.
A reader of The Root called out the organization for its clear display of insensitivity and callousness, writing the following to Staten Island Yankees executive Michael Holley:
Wow, could this promotion be any more offensive, divisive and disrespectful. On the anniversary of the death of Michael Brown, this is what the SI Yankees organization chooses to do? This is beyond poor judgement. Did it occur to anyone at the SI Yankees how alienating this is to fans who have been deeply affected by the events that spurred the “Black Lives Matter” movement, including those right here in Staten Island? … I will no longer attend games, nor will I recommend them to others until an apology and amends are made for this utterly tasteless promotion. I intend to write the NY Yankees Front Office and the Baseball Commissioner’s office to lodge a formal complaint and urge others to do the same. You should know better, and be better. This is a disgrace to the entire Yankees organization.
Below is Holley’s response, according to a statement the reader forwarded to The Root:
I am saddened to hear that you are upset with our program and this promotion, but I’m glad you took the time to send your feedback.
We at the Staten Island Yankees have been greatly affected by these issues along with everyone else in the St. George community. We all know that the protests in Manhattan and Brooklyn have stolen the headlines, but I truly believe that those that occurred here in Staten Island were the most heart-breaking—we all watched through our office windows as family and friends of Eric Garner stood in protest, notably with a lack of any sort of violence or, frankly, any sort of direction at times. To watch those take place was to feel an overwhelming sense of loss and sadness above all else. Here on Staten Island, people were sad and confused, not violent and angry. Nowhere else was it more abundantly clear that we are truly no winners in this struggle. I’ll remember those moments forever.
We put a lot of thought into whether or not to hold this promotion when Blue Lives Matter originally approached us. We try our best to accurately represent the interests of our community, and this issue is so divisive that it seemed like people wanted us to draw a line in the sand. But the more we thought about it, it came to down to this: Blue Lives Matter is an organization that supports the families of those who have been killed in action. I can’t pretend for a minute to understand who is right and who is wrong when something like that happens, but I DO know that families should NOT have to suffer. And for that reason, anyone who wants our help in raising resources to help those in need in our community will always have our ear.
It’s important for us to be a platform for support in St. George and on Staten Island in general, and I hope that everyone can look to something like this as an example of what we can do to help everyone. I would [be] thrilled, for example, if someone approached us about a fundraiser to support the fallen on all sides of any conflict.
I completely understand if you aren’t willing or able to agree with our participation in this fundraiser, even if that means no longer considering yourself a “fan” of our organization—and if that is so, I truly apologize because I understand where you’re coming from. But I hope that you will try to understand that our goal is to support those in need, and NOT to provide ammunition for the political and social battles that we are all facing. This has been a difficult issue for us as we walk a thin line. Ultimately, however, I’m comfortable with the decision to support an organization that helps those in need, and I will continue to seek opportunities for the Staten Island Yankees to do so in the future.
Thanks for taking the time to read this reply, and please feel free to call or email if you’d like to discuss anything further.
Michael Holley | Sr. Director of Marketing & Fan Experience
Staten Island Yankees Class A Affiliate of the New York Yankees
Holley did not respond to an email from The Root seeking comment.
The Staten Island Yankees wanted to send a statement Sunday, and they did: Black lives don’t matter to them or to the Yankees organization.
On Sunday of all days, they made it clear that not only is baseball America’s favorite pastime, but it goes hand in hand with the continued dehumanization of black Americans.
This is what hate looks like—white-hot hate.
This kind of psychological violence is par for the course, an attempt to gaslight black America into believing that we’re making it all up—the racism, the bigotry, the injustice. The refrain “Blue Lives Matter,” just like “All Lives Matter,” is a pathetic silencing tactic meant to minimize the pervasiveness of police brutality and amplify the need that too many white Americans have to vilify African Americans in this country—even in the grave.
While the Staten Island Yankees are slinging peanuts and Cracker Jacks, we’re trying to stay alive, and they couldn’t give a damn about it.
Hopefully, more people will follow this reader’s call to action and boycott the Staten Island Yankees. Because while black death and police brutality clearly don’t matter to them, black dollars will.