Chicago Cubs' Epstein says players welcome to express themselves

Anyone questioning Theo Epstein's level of seriousness regarding the COVID-19 pandemic simply needed to look at his attire Friday.

The Cubs president wore a mask to a Zoom meeting with reporters.

Epstein addressed many issues, but much of his time focused on the pandemic and Major League Baseball's reaction to the murder by police of George Floyd in Minneapolis. He isn't aware of MLB initiatives to address social-injustice issues through jersey messages or anything similar to what the NBA and other professional leagues are considering, but Epstein believes it's important for players to express themselves.

"Our players have heard the message loud and clear that we want them to express themselves and be themselves and we see them as people and citizens, not just as players," Epstein said. "The concept of shutting up and dribbling or shutting up and playing baseball, in this case, does not apply in this organization."

He answered similarly to questions about recent comments from third baseman Kris Bryant and tweets by Cubs prospect Adbert Alzolay. Even through disagreements, Epstein said it's important for players' voices to be heard.

Bryant earlier in the week expressed concern about being "shipped out in the middle of a pandemic," while Alzolay tweeted concerns about compensation for minor-league players and living conditions for players at the Cubs' training site in South Bend, Indiana.

Epstein said many of the statements in Alzolay's since-deleted tweets were inaccurate, but Epstein said he didn't ask Alzolay to delete the tweets. Just like with Bryant's comments - calling them a normal human reaction - Epstein wants his players to know they're free to speak their minds.

"I completely get where Kris is coming from," Epstein said. "Under these circumstances, we feel it is appropriate to weigh that variable - the real-world impact of any transaction on a player - more heavily than you would under normal circumstances because of the crisis around us and the adversity we're all facing.

"That said, there are still lots of other variables that are important, and we still have a job to do," he said. "And it's still, in the end, a business."

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