New York Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen apologized Thursday night after he was caught on video mistakenly criticizing MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred over a plan to play the team’s scheduled game despite player protests over the shooting of Jacob Blake.
Van Wagenen was caught on a hot mic on a video feed ahead of the Mets’ scheduled game against the Miami Marlins. In the video, the general manager suggested that Manfred had asked Mets owner Jeff Wilpon to hold a social justice demonstration prior to the first pitch, but play the game because a postponement would create scheduling issues during MLB’s coronavirus-shortened season.
“Baseball is trying to come up with a solution – the three of us in here, this can’t leave this room – and they’re saying ‘You know what would be really great? If you just have them all take the field, and then they leave the field, and then they come back and play at 8:10,’” Van Wagenen can be heard telling unidentified team employees off-camera. “And I was like ‘What?’”
When asked who had suggested the plan, Van Wagenen replied “Rob,” in a reference to the commissioner.
“[Manfred] goes ‘Jeff, scheduling is going to be a nightmare. There’s so much at stake.’ And I said, ‘Jeff, that is not happening,” Van Wagenen said. “These guys are not playing. They are not playing.’ But that’s Rob’s instinct, and Rob is at that leadership level and he doesn’t get it. He just doesn’t get it.”
Van Wagenen apologized for his remarks in the video in a subsequent statement, noting that it was Wilpon, not Manfred, who had suggested the game start at 8:10 p.m. ET.
“Jeff Wilpon called Commissioner Manfred this afternoon to notify him that our players voted not to play,” Van Wagenen said. “They discussed the challenges of rescheduling the game. Jeff proposed an idea of playing the game an hour later. I misunderstood that this was the Commissioner’s idea. In actuality, this was Jeff’s suggestion.”
“The players had already made their decision so I felt the suggestion was not helpful. My frustration with the Commissioner was wrong and unfounded. I apologize to the Commissioner for my disrespectful comments and poor judgment in inaccurately describing the contents of his private conversation with Jeff Wilpon,” he added.
Mets and Marlins players took the field for the scheduled 7:10 p.m. ET start time, observed a 42-second moment of silence and then walked off the field in protest. The team left a Black Lives Matter T-shirt on home plate.
At least seven MLB games were postponed on Thursday night. Athletes across several sports said they would not play after Blake, a Black man, was shot multiple times in the back during an encounter with police officer Rusten Sheskey in Kenosha, Wis. The shooting was caught on video and prompted days of protests.
The NBA, WNBA and NHL postponed all of their games on Thursday night. Several MLB games were expected to take place as scheduled.