Behind the viral Mookie Betts t-shirt, a message for Black LA

The black T-shirt, airbrushed in Dodger blue and white, was freshly painted when fashion designer Casey Lynch took out her phone to take a picture of her new creation.

In about a week, Los Angeles outfielder Mookie Betts will hit the field at Dodger Stadium. MLB All-Star Game train, train and give interviews in a Lynch shirt that carried a bold message: “We need more black people in the stadium.”

Black T-shirt with slogan "We need more blacks in the stadium" airbrush in blue and white

The original airbrushed version of the T-shirt worn by Mookie Betts at the All-Star Game is displayed on the floor of the Bricks & Wood office.

(Casey Lynch)

Lynch, the owner and founder of Bricks & Wood, a streetwear brand based in his native south-central Los Angeles, grew up attending Dodgers games with his grandfather. Lynch’s colleague, Malik Koni, who once trained with the Dodgers, also grew up in Los Angeles and became a baseball fan.

The couple wanted to celebrate what they saw as the lack of black fans at Dodger Stadium, as well as the lack of black representation in a sport that remains predominantly white.

“We really want to highlight and create comfort for people who are thinking, ‘You know what? I can’t do this sport, or I can’t go to this area, or I can’t be that person because it doesn’t represent people like me,” Lynch said. “You can still be yourself in unfamiliar rooms, or in those rooms that don’t have the same idea as you all the time.”

Major League Baseball officials have been trying to get more black Americans to watch and play sports by investing in youth baseball programs over the past decade. Despite efforts, 7.2% of players on Day One rosters this season were Black American, down from 7.6% last year.

Lynch said such differences in representation are reflected in Los Angeles as a whole.who receives recognition and whose votes are included. When Bricks & Wood and Dodgers agreed last year to develop a partnership new team clothing lineLynch wanted to make sure his south-central roots were visible.

“I think we just don’t get lost in what really is a huge part of the culture here,” Lynch said. “Black and brown conversation, it’s an undeniable thing that you really can’t overlook – Hispanic culture, black culture.”

And for Lynch, the culture of the Dodgers has always been black and Hispanic.

In historically black and Hispanic neighborhoods such as South Central Los Angeles, East Los Angeles, Echo Park and Highland Park, Lynch says Dodger blue and the Los Angeles team logo are ubiquitous, from murals to fashion and branding local businesses.

“The Los Angeles logo itself is bigger than the Dodgers,” Lynch said.

For airbrushing a T-shirt painted by an artist based in Los Angeles. Guava LALynch drew inspiration from childhood visits to the Slauson Super Mall, also known as the Slauson Exchange Meeting, where he could see local shops putting scripts and designs on trucker T-shirts and caps.

Days before the All-Star Game, Lynch attempted to introduce his new line of baseball caps to the Dodgers. But what caught the attention of Betts, a six-time star, two-time World Series champion and one of the few black MLB stars today, was not Lynch’s official team kit, but an airbrushed T-shirt that was released separately.

The jersey was not intended to be shown at the All-Star Game, but instead during home run derby the night before, Lynch said. Due to a delivery delay, the jersey was delivered just a few hours before the opening of the All-Star Game.

After seeing Betts wear different clothes during the derby, Lynch wasn’t sure the Dodgers superstar would wear them at all.

“I was like, ‘Well, if he’s not wearing it now, then, you know, I wouldn’t be surprised,'” Lynch said. “It didn’t bother me. But then my phone started flooding, and I thought, “Oh, that’s it.”

It wasn’t the first time a public figure had worn Lynch’s clothes. In 2018, music artist Tyler the Creator wore several Lynch hats during GQ photo shoot. A few months later, Bricks & Wood’s popularity skyrocketed.

But before Tuesday’s game, as Lynch watched posts, tweets and Instagram posts about the T-shirt sprout on social media, he knew this moment with the Betts was different.

“I was very happy that Muki chose to support this message on such a large platform,” Lynch said. “The idea was not to go viral, but to generate a reaction… and start a conversation.”