TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – “Oh man I can’t wait I’ve been missing baseball too much,” said Rays fan, Chase Harris.
All eyes are on the Tampa Bay Rays for opening day, but on social media, the Rays are redirecting fans’ attention to social justice.
A tweet posted from the Tampa Bay Rays Friday morning advocated for justice for Breonna Taylor, the 26-year-old emergency medical technician who was killed by the police in her home in Louisville, Kentucky, on March 13.
“Today is Opening Day, which means it’s a great day to arrest the killers of Breonna Taylor,” the tweet says.
Fans are on opposing sides of the diamond, some call it a home-run and others call it a strike.
“They’re definitely taking a stance in the right direction, being out there and being bold. That’s how the Rays have always been and always will be,” Harris said.
“Leave it out of baseball,” said sports fan, Kyle Strohl. “I think it’s ridiculous, to be honest. They just want to be heard and they know people will listen because it’s sports. But I think it’s crazy to even get involved with politics. You know the whole world is just crazy right now.”
Taylor was shot and killed after police officers executed a no-knock search warrant and used a battering ram to enter her home.
After hearing the commotion, Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, thought the home was being broken into and fired his gun in self-defense.
Police returned fire and killed Taylor.
One of the officers, Brett Hankison, was fired in June for his role in the shooting. The other two officers, Jon Mattingly and Myles Cosgrove, were placed on administrative reassignment. None of the officers have been arrested or charged with a crime.
Rays fans are all over the field with their reaction to the Rays getting involved in the discussion.
“It’s a tough say… it’s great they’re using their platform. I know a lot of people want sports to be sports and politics to be politics, but in today’s climate, I think it’s okay to blur lines here and there. It doesn’t offend me any, I’m still going to watch baseball,” said baseball fan, Andrew Hardgrove.
“The way the world’s changing everyone is becoming political and you’re eventually going to have to take the side of a cause and right now they’re on the right side of a cause,” said baseball fan, Shelby Barker.
“We just wanted to educate our fans on some of the issues of systemic racism. We want to tie it into action steps, so we launched our social justice website today and announced the $100,000 grant,” said Stephen Thomas, the executive director of the Rays Baseball Foundation.
He said their organization is vowing to contribute $100,000 annually to support local businesses who actively work to fight systematic racism.
“This isn’t something that will be solved in one day, one year or five years, 15 years… this is a commitment we’re doing annually to fight issues of systemic racism and this is one thing that people want to do to make a positive change,” Thomas said. “The players are making a stand, as an organization we aren’t shy about making our thoughts known on how we feel about human equality for people.”
Thomas went on to say anyone in the community is welcome to get involved on the Rays’ Social Justice website. He said they hope to have in-person volunteer events in the future.
“Ultimately when we get a place when we can do more in-person events, we’ve talked with these organizations about doing volunteer opportunities so we hope to include fans and season ticket holders in some of these opportunities,” he said.
The Rays will face the Toronto Blue Jays for their first game of the 2020 season, which is set to begin at 6:40 p.m.