CINCINNATI – With so few Black players in the major leagues, Cincinnati Reds reliever Amir Garrett was afraid to talk openly about racial discrimination. He kept his thoughts — and his stories — to himself.
He wouldn't speak of the time in high school in California when he and another Black classmate were on their way to basketball practice, playing their music in the car. Police pulled them over, shoved them against the car, frisked them aggressively, emptied the car while claiming to look for drugs, then them go.
They received no ticket, Garrett said, but a threat.
“They say, ‘OK, you can go, but next time don’t play your music so loud around here because next time we're not going to be so nice,'” Garrett said Monday.
Silent no more, the 28-year-old pitcher is trying to bring awareness, starting within his own team.
When George Floyd, a Black man, died on May 25 after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for nearly eight minutes, Garrett texted the video to first baseman Joey Votto, the Reds' most prominent player. Votto watched it the next day and was brought to tears.
Votto responded to Garrett and started a conversation. Votto then began reaching out to others to hear their experiences and eventually wrote a column in The Cincinnati Enquirer about his changing views.
“I think I've changed as a man. I feel my perspective has changed,” Votto said Friday on a Zoom call. "I didn't want to (speak up), but I couldn't sleep. There was a long stretch where I couldn't sleep. When it affects me that deeply, I felt strongly about saying something and learning. Every day I'm trying to learn.