By Aaron Leibowitz
Before Monday night’s playoff game between the Cardinals and Dodgers at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, a handful of protestors demanding justice for Mike Brown gathered outside the ballpark. Like those still marching in the streets of Ferguson, the protestors were calling for the arrest of Darren Wilson, the police officer who — according to six different witnesses — shot and killed Brown while Brown had his hands in the air.
These protestors, most of whom were young and black, were met with ugly resistance from a mostly-white crowd of Cardinals fans. Deadspin highlighted the worst of it. It’s worth reading, and the video is worth watching. One fan wore a Cards jersey with “I Am Darren Wilson” slapped on the back. Another gave a Nazi salute. There was also no shortage of racist vitriol, including: “If they’d be working, we wouldn’t have this problem!”; “Let’s go Darren!”; “Africa! Africa! Africa!”; and “We’re the ones who gave all y’all the freedoms that you have!”
We’re talking disgusting, bone-chilling, your-really-racist-great-aunt-level racism from members of a bunch that proudly refers to itself as the “Best Fans in Baseball.”
Understandably, the fans who were not part of that angry mob felt the urge to separate themselves. Many took to social media to do so, using the hashtag #NotAllCardinalsFans to make the distinction between the good ones and the bad ones. Surely, many Cardinals fans are not blatantly racist. Some of the folks marching in Ferguson probably claim the Cards as their favorite team.
But here’s the problem. In the 25-minute video of Monday’s incident, none of those “good ones” rush to the side of the protestors. No one expresses support or solidarity. No one confronts the racists. If they, too, want justice for Mike Brown, and for the black people killed by police every 28 hours in the United States, they certainly didn’t show it.
In the fight to prove that not all Cardinals fans are racist, simply tweeting about it will accomplish nothing. Here’s a better idea. During the upcoming National League Championship Series against the Giants, the Best Fans in Baseball — the white ones, in particular — should try living up to their self-appointed title by standing and chanting with the protestors. They should express disgust with their fellow fans who plan to sell and wear Cardinals-red Darren Wilson t-shirts outside the park.
They should also demand that the Cardinals organization condemn the racists — and perhaps, those racist shirts — and do everything in their power to keep the protestors safe. So far, all we’ve seen is a team statement appealing to “unity” and “anti-violence.” The Cardinals — the franchise of Curt Flood, who challenged the reserve clause to become one of the most courageous dissenters in baseball history — should try appealing to anti-racism, as well.
It’s not too late. This weekend, over 6,000 people are expected to rally in Ferguson, and, at risk of enduring more racist garbage, some will likely return to Busch Stadium. If the Cardinals organization and its fans expect anyone to take #NotAllCardinalsFans seriously, then the chants of “Let’s go Darren” must be drowned out by cries of “Hands up, don’t shoot.” The hate speech must be challenged, not with violence, but with loud resistance. The Cardinals, and the Best Fans in Baseball, must back up their words with actions.