ST. PETERSUBRG, Fla. - The Tampa Bay Rays used the return of baseball Friday night to focus on racial justice.
A video supporting the Black Lives Matter movement played before the home opener, there was a moment of silence on the field, and some players from both the Rays and the Toronto Blue Jays knelt during the national anthem.
The Rays want fans to pay attention to a position not included in the starting line-up.
Friday morning, the team tweeted: “Today is opening day, which means it’s a great day to arrest the killers of Breonna Taylor.”
The next two tweets from the Rays drove home how the franchise is using its platform to help fight for positive change.
“The Rays have never been afraid to be a part of this community and to do work in this community,” said Michael Jalazo.
Jalazo is the executive director of People Empowering & Restoring Communities. PERC is one of five organizations to be awarded a new racial equality grant from the Rays Baseball Foundation and Rowdies Soccer Fund.
“It’s them wanting to be involved and understanding hey there are challenges in our community, we’re part of this community, let us help meet those challenges,” said Jalazo. “And you couldn’t ask for more than that.”
The program vows to give $100,000 annually to support non-profits working in underserved communities and fighting systemic racism.
PERC has six offices in Pinellas and Pasco Counties offering comprehensive social services.
“We want to make our community safer, the best way to make our community safer is by upwardly mobile career pathways, is by making the investments in our community that will help people help themselves have different choices,” explained Jalazo.
The Rays also recently launched a new social justice website. It lists local BIPIC-owned businesses, there’s a page filled with resources to learn more about systemic racism and links to local organizations promoting equality and fighting injustice.
“They’re putting their money where their mouth is and saying look we're not gonna just talk about this, we’re gonna make that investment,” Jalazo said.
Rays Social Justice Resource Guide: https://www.mlb.com/rays/community/social-justice
People Empowering & Restoring Communities: https://exoffender.org/