St. Louis Cardinals: Jack Flaherty speaks out about social injustices

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 14: Jack Flaherty #22 of the St. Louis Cardinals reacts against the Washington Nationals in game three of the National League Championship Series at Nationals Park on October 14, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 14: Jack Flaherty #22 of the St. Louis Cardinals reacts against the Washington Nationals in game three of the National League Championship Series at Nationals Park on October 14, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) /
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In the past, Jack Flaherty has shown he is not afraid to express his opinions. But his recent comments on the BLM movement has now cemented him as the most outspoken player on the St. Louis Cardinals.

Jack Flaherty over the last two seasons has become one of the most popular players on the St. Louis Cardinals’ roster. After his outstanding second half in 2019, many are beginning to call the 6-4 205lb 24-year old, this generations’ Bob Gibson or Chris Carpenter.

But now his recent comments on his support of the Black Lives Matter movement has created a stir among Cardinal fans on social media. Many fans on Facebook and Twitter have criticized the young Cardinal right-handed pitcher for publicly expressing his viewpoint on this controversial and divisive issue.

However, Flaherty has previously shown he is not afraid to express his views on other issues which may affect him personally as well. Whether it’s about his contract status with the Cardinals or the MLBPA’s battle with the owners about pay for the shortened 2020 season, Jack Flaherty has been the most outspoken player on the St. Louis Cardinals.

Flaherty’s principled stands on salary issues

Let’s be clear, Jack Flaherty’s battles with the St. Louis Cardinals and the owners over salary issues should not be equated with his support of the BLM movement. The first two are principled stands, where his support for the BLM movement is much more personal.

In March, for the second year in a row, Flaherty rejected the Cardinals’ pre-arbitration offer and the front office imposed a salary. The Cardinals had finalized deals with 25 other players on their roster who had less than three years of service time. Flaherty was the only player the Cardinals had to renew without an agreement.

Flaherty told Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post Dispatch, “It’s just kind of the product of the system that we have. Can’t really do much. They’re going to pay what they’re allowed to do in the system. It’s not them. I can’t fault them for doing that. The system is what it is. And it’s not the best.”

During the battle between the MLB and the MLPA over pay for a COVID-19 shortened season, Jack Flaherty may have taken one of the more direct shots at owners…his owner in fact. When Bill DeWitt Jr. claimed that the baseball industry wasn’t very profitable, Flaherty sent out this tweet.

Additionally, in late May, Flaherty was one of the most outspoken when it came to standing by the veteran players and not accepting the current MLB proposal. The younger and lower-paid players would be getting the better end of MLB’s proposal which would cut pay further on a longer season. Flaherty pointed out the veterans gave up the right to sue for full pay in March so the younger and lower-paid players could get full credit for the 2020 season.

Flaherty, the BLM movement, a personal issue

However, nothing seems to have cut deeper into and divided the Cardinal fan base more than Jack Flaherty’s public support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Comments on Facebook, Twitter, and sports talk shows have shown some support, but also much criticism directed at Flaherty.

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The issue erupted on Wednesday when Flaherty described to the media how the video of George Floyd’s death impacted him. “I think it finally struck a nerve with everything going on,” Flaherty said. “We have this platform, we have this opportunity to talk and try to do anything we can to make change.”

But it was his expressed support of Oakland A’s catcher Bruce Maxwell, who kneeled for the national anthem in 2017, that drew the rebuke of many Cardinal fans. “Nobody really had Bruce’s back back then,” Flaherty said. “Guys were unsure what was going on, and how to come together and do it the right way. All props to Bruce for doing what he did, for standing up for what was right. It’s a special thing that he did…We kind of wish that we had been there for Bruce and had his back and been able to come together back then the way we are now.”

Asked if he thought a baseball player would kneel for the anthem when games start later this month, Flaherty said, “absolutely.” Also, when asked if he plans to do something to promote Black Lives Matter on the field, Flaherty said, “Something is in the works.”

Jack Flaherty has taken a stand

It’s obvious from reading comments on several Cardinal Facebook groups and Twitter that Jack Flaherty has caused an eruption among Cardinal fans over his support of the Black Lives Matter movement. The comments are too numerous to mention, but my unofficial observation is the majority are negative. Many don’t think he should be discussing his views at all (i.e. ‘keep politics out of the sport we love’) and others just disagree with his stance.

As far as the St. Louis Cardinals or even team members shutting him up, it’s unlikely to happen. Cardinals manager Mike Shildt is supportive. “One of the biggest things you can do is listen,” said Shildt. “And in general our society hasn’t listened as we should have.”

Regardless, how fans feel, Jack Flaherty isn’t likely to back down. As a mixed-race athlete, this issue affects him personally. In fact, Flaherty says he is not trying to make a political statement. For him it’s not a “political thing” it’s a “human rights thing.”

Jack Flaherty isn’t the first professional athlete (or St. Louis Cardinal for that matter) to speak out on a social issue. We have seen in some cases it cost them their careers. Nevertheless, it often brought needed attention to the issue that eventually helped lead to change.

In the end, the question we have to ask ourselves as fans, ‘should a player speak out about an issue if it affects him personally? And if he doesn’t speak out, in what other ways could he support an issue he cares so much about?’

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Speaking out is the path Jack Flaherty has chosen…and to me, it really seems to be the only path for him.