Phillies, Nationals Show United Front in Press Conference Following Postponement

The Phillies and Nationals were set to wrap up their three-game series on Thursday night in Washington, but the game was postponed after Phillies players elected not to take the field.

NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Jim Salisbury first reported earlier Thursday afternoon that the Phillies made the decision during a players-only meeting.

The Phillies issued a statement a few hours later.

The Phillies and Nationals players have collectively decided to postpone tonight’s game.  We support their decision to use their platform to call attention to the racial and social injustice that continues to exist in our country.  We will continue to stand behind our players and those on the front lines working to generate accountability and real change in our society.

In electing not to play Thursday night’s game, the two teams joined several others across multiple sports that decided not to compete over the last two days.

Instead, the two clubs showed a unified front during a joint press conference that first featured managers Joe Girardi and Dave Martinez before the two gave way to players Josh Harrison and Rhys Hoskins.

The nearly 40-minute press conference began with Girardi detailing when he first became aware that his team may not take the field.

“I heard word earlier in the day as I talked with some of our players, knowing what had happened with some of the other sports, some of the other games from yesterday,” he said. “I think we probably had a pretty good inclination around two o’ clock from our club what the thoughts were, and I’m in support of our players. We’re in this together, this fight for equality and social justice.”

Girardi also shared some thoughts of his own on the situation.

“In this world I’ve always believed that there’s two things that you can’t live without, and it has nothing to do with food and water – it’s love and hope. And I don’t think we’re doing a good job in our country giving that to everyone, and I think that needs to be the focus here. I think that’s what baseball, the Philadelphia Phillies, are standing up for. People need to have love and hope. And listen.”

Martinez described how things played out on the Nationals’ end and how his team supported the Phillies’ decision:

We were going to have a meeting at four o’ clock. Before that, I heard from Joe at 2:15, and he told me that in support of his players that they didn’t want to play. I immediately said that I would support him, his players, his organization, because, honestly, this is a brotherhood. We bang heads everyday on the field, we love to compete, but we stand with one another when these things happen. So, I talked to him, we were in agreement that we won’t play today. I then started calling our players to tell them about what was going on, got their thoughts. We did have a meeting, but before then I talked to most of them and got their thoughts, and they were all in agreement that they wanted to support their fellow players, and they respect their decision.

Hoskins also detailed the decision not to take the field.

“We met about one o clock today. There were a few guys that were on the fence about whether they felt comfortable playing given the climate in this country right now,” he said. “And I thought it was best if we had a meeting together as players to discuss that. I think, like Joe just said, the discussion part is key. The listening part is key. Basically, what came of it was that whatever decision was made, we wanted to make sure that we were doing it together, that we were doing it as one.”

Hoskins revealed that several players spoke up, some of which were emotional, and that the team ultimately thought it was in their best interest not to play tonight.

Former NBC Sports Philadelphia anchor Marshall Harris, who is now the sports director of CBS13 in Sacramento, asked Hoskins, a native of the area, how recent events, including the shooting of Stephon Clark in Sacramento, have influenced his perspectives and world views.

“I think, not only in Sacramento, but, obviously, across this nation there have been events over the last few months that have definitely been eye-opening. Some of these events have led to conversations that I’m not sure I would have had without, and for that, I’m thankful,” Hoskins said. “I’m thankful that there is conversations being had, there is learning going on. There’s raw emotions that I think that we’re getting from each other in the clubhouse that we wouldn’t have necessarily got.”

From there, he continued about the need for change and the importance of a continuing dialogue:

We’re hoping for change, and we know that some of these issues that are going on in the country are rather big issues. Even if there’s baby steps towards changing those issues, that feels like a win, and I think that change starts with these conversations. It’s tough to see some of these guys go through things and have these thoughts that I’ve never had, and I’ve never even really thought about having. They’ve never been on my radar, some of things that affect strong black men and women across this country on a daily basis.

He then referenced the impassioned postgame remarks of Mets first baseman Dom Smith on Wednesday night:

“I’m sure everybody saw Dom Smith last night, but if that doesn’t hit you differently than it should. It should hit you differently because we’re all humans,” Hoskins said.

Harrison, who was released by the Phillies at the end of summer camp before signing with the Nationals, called for a united front.

“I know those guys stand behind each other and support each other. And just to go along with what Joe and Davey said, even though we battle each other every night, different uniforms in between those white lines, it’s a brotherhood. And at the end of the day, we’ve got to support each other and be united, whatever the cause may be.”

Harrison, who is a member of the MLB Players’ Alliance, stressed the need for athletes to use their platforms to stand up for what they believe in and do what is right.

The Phillies are scheduled to return home tomorrow for the first of a three-game set against the Braves. The Nationals, meanwhile, are set to open a three-game series in Boston. The two teams are currently scheduled to meet in a four-game series in Philadelphia next week.

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