Kemp

As national conversations on racism and police brutality keep spreading, stories are seen as powerful tools to educate and advocate for change. 

Tony Kemp, a former Centennial High School baseball star and current Oakland A's second baseman, took to Twitter Monday to share one of his. 

"First time I’ve actually written these words down," Kemp said in a post when asked if he'd had any experiences where he felt he was racially profiled by police. "And my heart is pounded." 

The former Cougars standout shared an experience he had when he was 17 in Franklin, heading home from his now-wife's home around 10 o'clock at night. 

Kemp rolled through a stop sign and was pulled over by a police officer. He acknowledged to the officer he knew why he was pulled over, and the officer asked for his licence and registration. 

The officer took the items from Kemp and, after 10 minutes, another cop car rolled up, according to the baseball player. 

"When he begins to walk my way the other back up cop is taking a flashlight and looking into my backseat on the passenger side," Kemp wrote. "Officer gets to my window and says I'm going to issue you a ticket and you can complete driving school for 6 hours and it can be erased from my record. I said thank you." 

But the line of questioning didn't stop there, per Kemp. 

The officer asked Kemp if he had anything illegal in his vehicle, and Kemp replied no. The officer then asked Kemp if he could search the vehicle. 

"Heart racing, I agreed and got out of the car and stood with his counterpart as he searches my white Ford Explorer," Kemp wrote. "5 min search goes by and he says okay you're clean." 

With a reminder not to roll through stop signs in the future, the situation ends. 

"Rolling stop, and my vehicle gets searched," Kemp wrote. "I'll let you be the judge.." 

The story Kemp has is just one of many being used to build a tapestry of experiences across the United States with police. 

Many of them are being shared in wake of the killing of George Floyd, a black man who died at the hands of a white police officer on Memorial Day after that officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes while Floyd pleaded with the officer that he could not breathe. 

Kemp has been using his social media platform not just to share his experience, but to field the questions and comments of others.

“I was just depressed after the George Floyd murder. I didn’t get out of bed until 2 or 3 in the afternoon. Just down in the dumps,” Kemp said to MLB.com. “After I picked myself back up, I put that out there and said, ‘Hey, I’m here to talk to people.’ I wanted to get some open dialogue and communicate. So far, I’ve been very happy with the feedback.”

The baseball player's feed shows invitations to those in his audience to engage in conversations about race and policing.

"It's true," Twitter user Bob Wheeler Jr. said in a post shared by Kemp. "I'm a gun-toting right-winger who wanted to have a real discussion about what we can do to end all this crap and make things better and we've been messaging back and forth about a project in Texas. Really amazing. We knew he was a good guy. We didn't know HOW good." 

Part of Kemp's efforts have centered around trying to spread awareness on the Tulsa race massacre of 1921 and add it to school history curriculum. It is the most violent racially-motivated attack in America's history and is often cited as a glaring omission in history books. 

He got a direct message from Republican senator James Lankford from Oklahoma, welcoming conversation on the issue. 

"I'm a person that usually tries to avoid conflict," Kemp told Infield Chatter. "Right now, what's going on in America, I feel like this is the time to speak up." 

The conversations have inspired Kemp to start the "+1 Effect" campaign. 

"Kemp's hope is that the conversations will have a '+1 Effect,' with the new perspective domino'ing to the next person, then another, and so on," per breakingT, who will produce shirts with the "+1 Effect" logo on it and the words "Be the Change." 

BreakingT says proceeds from a shirt purchase will go toward Campaign Zero, an organization focused on ending police violence. 

"We can make a difference by having honest and sometimes difficult conversations about race with one person and that person can do the same," Kemp said in a Tweet. "Let’s change the world!"

A Franklin native, Kemp was traded to Oakland last fall from the Chicago Cubs. He had 31 runs, 52 hits, 8 home runs, 29 RBI and a .212 batting average with the Cubs and A's combined last season.

He was with the Houston Astros from 2016 to July 2019 before that, where he won a World Series as a member of the active roster. 

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