Angel McGee, manager of communications and outreach for the Kansas City MLB Urban Youth Academy (KCUYA), an affiliate of the Kansas City Royals, has witnessed firsthand the developments in the fight against systemic racism being made by the Royals. The Kansas City native participated in the team’s Juneteenth message this year and was instrumental in planning a successful voting drive weeks later.
McGee spoke with Yahoo Sports about how the Royals and the KCUYA are standing by their mission to advocate and educate, detailing how the team’s current objectives align with their intentions to be better allies for their players both at the professional level and within the academy.
Yahoo Sports: What separates what MLB is doing to combat racial injustice from the other major leagues?
Angel McGee: For the Royals, the biggest notion of change has been support from ownership. In my opinion, encouragement has to begin with the owners and trickle down. In our preliminary conversations, the front office made it clear: they saw what was going on and asked what they could to guarantee positive, long-term effects.
For me, that was an amazing and gratifying feeling. We did not wait for the rest of MLB to collectively decide what to do. Instead, we held several meetings within the first couple weeks of George Floyd’s murder to discuss how we as a Royals organization can be the example. Once you get the front office and players on board, setting the example in demanding justice trickles down to our sponsors and fans.
YS: How did your feedback and affiliation with the Kansas City Urban Youth Academy encourage the Royals to take action as a franchise?
AM: The KCUYA was quick to ask for our suggestions and seriously consider them. They’ve always branded themselves as a platform for diverse audiences. From there, the academy held a roundtable discussion with athletes. It was an emotionally filled and transparent dialogue between athletes, staff, coaches, players and anyone with an affiliation to the Royals. We wanted to give our youth a platform to speak up and we were serious about hearing how these wrongdoings have directly impacted them. We can't move forward without being performative. These violations are impacting the youth we service. So, it’s imperative we take a stand and make sure we support our communities.
Take Juneteenth, for example. We wanted to be impactful than just giving employees the day off. So, we coordinated a food distribution drive to benefit families directly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Considering the issues coming to light in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death and the history of systemic racism, the notion of voting is so important. We wanted to emphasize that as well. Change begins at the local level. One of the best ways to prove you’re an ally is by taking part in various grassroots efforts.
YS: Can you speak more about the influence of the KCUYA in ensuring there’s minority representation in baseball in the future?
AM: The beauty of the KCUYA from an organizational perspective is that we are recognized as the eighth minor-league affiliate of the Royals. Creating a pipeline that is reflective of getting our boys and girls back into the game is one of our primary objectives. Another is providing our athletes the opportunity to be a part of the game no matter their socio-economic status.
As much emphasis as we are doing on the field, they have to see themselves doing it by way of our staff as well. Our mission statement reflects that responsibility. We want them to play, but recognize it’s not the end goal. There is no limit to their abilities. If playing professionally doesn’t interest them, perhaps serving in a managerial role or even doing something on the business side is an alternative.
YS: We’ve seen such an influx of activism as of late. What do you think is the next step in guaranteeing that athletes advocating for change are protected on and off the court?
AM: We have opened the door for the conversation to be had. Now that we are actively engaging, we are seeing so many flashes of engagement from players. I think it’s literally changing the course of sports for good. We’ve always discussed athletics being the bridge between cultures. Truth be told, that is what our society needs. For players, we need to see them as more than people who run around bases. We don’t take into account the issues they run into on and off the field. From the heckling by fans to the trolls online, Black players are not immune to this behavior despite playing at a professional level.
YS: What advice would you give to young, Black women entering a career in sports who might be hesitant about speaking out?
AM: You will always be your best advocate. In that same breath, it’s important to speak up, engage and have these uncomfortable conversations. Now that entities have promised to do better, we need to do our part in holding them accountable. Understand that your voice matters, you are seen and you are needed in order to represent this culture and your community. Someone once told me, “You are your gift.” Another person’s dream can’t be attached to your talents.
Pass Her the Mic is a series by Yahoo Sports that profiles Black women at the intersection of sports and race, discussing various topics ranging from racial injustice to athlete activism.
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