Franklin’s Tony Kemp might not be on the baseball field right now, but he is helping lead tough conversations about racism and police brutality – topics dominating the national stage.
The 28-year-old Oakland Athletics second baseman and former Centennial High School standout has partnered with sports fan apparel company BreakingT to launch the +1 Effect. Kemp says the #Plus1Effect is about engaging in honest and sometimes tough conversations about race.
For the first time since he was 7 years old, Tony Kemp isn’t playing baseball in June.
“I think that everybody understands what's going on now and understands that change needs to happen and I'm just happy that we were able to start a campaign like this,” Kemp said, adding that about 250 +1 Effect shirts have been sold so far.
As part of BreakingT’s monthlong action program for June, sales from the shirt will benefit non-profit Campaign Zero's effort to end police violence.
Kemp said he was “depressed” after George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minnesota Police officers on May 25. On June 5, during the 11th night of protests in the wake of Floyd’s death, Kemp offered a message on Twitter: “Let’s be honest. It’s been a tough week. If any of you need to talk or want to be more informed don’t hesitate to ask me. All love.”
The former Vanderbilt star began engaging in conversations about racial injustices and police brutality openly on social media. Through direct messages and more, the requests to discuss these tough issues poured in.
One of the first questions was about how Kemp stays positive in the midst of this ongoing national discussion.
“I believe in my heart there are better days ahead and that our future generations depend on people like you and me,” he replied.
Freedom Middle School principal Charles Farmer applauded Kemp for responding to everyone who took up the offer.
“This is phenomenal … inspirational,” Farmer said on Twitter. “We need more of this – opportunities for dialogue that seeks understanding rather than division – as we move forward together as a nation.”
Kemp called much of the dialogue exhausting at times, but a “necessary sacrifice.”
Proud to announce THE +1 EFFECT campaign. We can make a difference by having honest and sometimes difficult conversations about race with one person and that person can do the same. Let’s change the world! #Plus1Effect Join the movement here: https://t.co/9N8riFauJa pic.twitter.com/YcRqxT5K5X— Tony Kemp (@tonykemp) June 16, 2020
On June 15, Kemp responded to a question about profiling and if he had ever endured an instance where he felt like he was unfairly treated by police. Kemp didn’t hesitate to share a story from when he was 17 even though it was the first time he wrote the situation down.
“It brought back the same emotions I experienced that night,” Kemp said. “My hands were shaking and my heart was racing.”
A then 17-year-old Kemp left his now-wife Michelle’s home around 10 p.m. more than a decade ago. Kemp rolled through a stop sign in Franklin near his neighborhood and was pulled over by a police officer. Kemp said he acknowledged why he was stopped when asked and handed over his license and registration to the officer who returned to his patrol car.
“Ten minutes go by and another police car rolls up,” Kemp shared. “When (the first officer) begins to walk my way the other back-up cop is taking a flashlight and looking into my backseat on the passenger’s side.”
Kemp said when the first officer arrived back to his driver’s side window, he issued a ticket and said after six hours of driving school, it could be erased from Kemp’s record.
“I said thank you,” Kemp shared. “His next words are, ‘Do you have anything illegal in this vehicle?’”
Kemp told the officer he didn’t, but said the officer asked if he can search the vehicle. The young high schooler agreed with his “heart racing."
The first officer searched Kemp’s Ford Explorer for five minutes before saying, “Okay, you’re clean,” Kemp said.
“Rolling stop and my vehicle gets searched,” he said at the end of the post. “I’ll let you be the judge.”
“It wasn’t until later on that I kind of figured that getting a full car search after a rolling stop is kind of out of the ordinary for a routine traffic stop,” Kemp said. “Unfortunately, that situation did happen, but as I’ve gotten older, you understand that everything is not pixie sticks and rainbows.
"With everything going on, it felt like an appropriate time to share that experience and fortunately nothing else came out of it.”
Major League Baseball announced this week it will move forward with a shortened 60-game schedule due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a start date on July 23 or July 24, meaning Kemp will likely report to training camp soon. Kemp produced 52 hits, eight home runs and 29 RBI with .212 batting average and 31 runs playing for Oakland and the Chicago Cubs last season. He said change starts with one small step and one conversation.
“It starts with your inner circle,” Kemp said. “It’s a small step that leads to a big change.”