Williams: Make protesting voices heard through vote

White Sox executive VP encourages empowerment of speech on ballot

Williams: Make protesting voices heard through vote

CHICAGO -- Ken Williams respects the power of protest against oppression or injustice of any sort.

The White Sox executive vice president has watched groups assemble across the country after Michael Brown was killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo., and following Eric Garner's death after being put in a chokehold by a police officer in Staten Island, N.Y. No indictments were handed down against the officers in either case resulting in the death of these young African-American men.

As an African-American and father with adult sons, Williams admittedly is sensitive to what has happened. But he still advocates a different kind of empowerment, empowerment through the vote, to make the most decisive point.

"I wonder out of all the people -- whether they be in Ferguson or Cleveland or New York, or all the other cities that I've seen on CNN -- I wonder how many of the people who are coming together for protest are registered voters and are participatory in the process?" Williams said. "You have a concern about judge and jury and outcomes along these lines in some of these cases we are talking about? Well, if you are a registered voter, you have a voice. If you are not, then I'm not sure how much stock I can put in your protest."

Williams, the architect of the 2005 World Series champions, has spoken eloquently about the importance of education over athletics during press conferences at U.S. Cellular Field honoring the White Sox Amateur City Elite program. He forcefully drove home a point about "putting down the guns" while speaking at the Jackie Robinson West Little League World Series championship celebration in downtown Chicago.

Williams understands the "I can't breathe" T-shirts worn pregame by NBA standouts Derrick Rose and LeBron James, to name a few, featuring the last words of Garner. He would support the same expression from a member of the White Sox. Free speech is an important part of making changes, although he maintains that it is voting that provides power within the system.

"Listen, if you don't stand up to injustice and for human rights, especially if you have any kind of a voice, then I'm not so sure that you have a right to stand up for anything," Williams said. "I speak freely. I speak candidly on the subject. I just chose to focus my attention on things that will actually result in change.

"If you have a jury that is more representative of your community, if you have issues that are discussed within the household, debated, and then you are more in charge of city budgets or of the direction your individual city or community is going, then that's truly power. If you are marching down the street or protesting in other forms that do not result in an action plan, then I think it's just a temporary light on the subject."

Williams understands that some who are protesting feel disenfranchised due to an ongoing lack of institutional change. As Williams pointed out, one marcher won't do a heck of a lot. Masses upon masses of people marching get noticed.

"I'll put it to you this way, the conversation in my household ended when I said to my family, 'Well, I understand the protest. I support it. But I would support it a heck of a lot more if all those people were marching down to the voter registration office,'" Williams said. "One of the things I agree upon that gets lost in some of this is: You got to have a certain amount of respect for the police. And the police have to have a certain amount of understanding for protect and serve. That's inclusive of everyone, and when it's not, it saddens me. Because in some communities, it's not viewed upon as 'protect and serve.' It's viewed upon as something other.

"Again, if you want to be participatory in the system as a whole and the operation of your community as a whole, than you can't stand on the outside," Williams said. "You have to get in on the inside."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.