Maybe two minutes had passed since Yankees manager Aaron Boone announced that his centerfielder, Aaron Hicks, would not play because of the emotional impact of another police shooting in Minneapolis.
In that time, I tweeted the news in a straightforward way — “Aaron Hicks not starting tonight because of the situation in Minneapolis” — and took a gander at the replies. The first wave of comments included:
“What a loser.”
“At least it gets him out of the 3 hole.”
“Idc dude sucks”
“Maybe Hicks can tell ppl to stop resisting arrest. Do some good. Be a leader.”
“Yea, let’s all take the day off.”
There were worse insults that we won’t print, along with a smattering of compliments. And we’re just talking about one reporter’s feed. The overall tone of “shut up and play” happened so quickly that I could raise it within the same news conference.
What, I asked, would Boone say to people criticizing Hicks for taking an action that he — as manager of the Yankees — supported?
“I would say that Aaron is hurting in a huge way,” Boone answered. “And I think, in a way, felt like it was probably the responsible thing to take himself out in knowing that it was going to be hard for him to be all in mentally in what is a high-stakes, difficult job — to go out and perform for the New York Yankees.
“I don’t really even give two thoughts to that. My consideration is with Aaron and his well-being and making sure that, as best we can, we support him and try to be there as best we can for him right now.
“This is something in the immediate, this real emotion that he’s feeling. And right now, I’m going to support that.”
Boone’s first point was especially insightful. Hicks was in emotional pain after a Minnesota police officer shot and killed 20-year-old Daunte Wright. The officer apparently thought she was firing a taser, not a gun, but the tragedy occurred in the context of last year’s killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis by an officer, Derek Chauvin, who is currently on trial for murder.
While processing all that, Hicks knew that he was in no shape to help the Yankees. His approach was to meet with his manager and admit this — a display of maturity and professionalism.
Fortunately, baseball in 2021 employs more leaders than it once did who understand that racial injustice is far more significant than a ballgame.
“There’s no question it’s changed a lot in that regard, and a lot in a positive way,” Boone said of clubhouse culture. “Things that go on in society and in our culture spill over into athletics. These guys, rightfully so, have gained more and more of a platform to be able to express themselves. I certainly support their right to do that.”
Boone also said: “You try and conduct and live your life the best way you can. Sometimes that means loving and supporting someone through something.”
Loving and supporting. Imagine that. If only more fans could follow that example and lead with empathy, rather than online toxicity.