The San Francisco Giants manager and several coaches and team members took a knee during the national anthem before their first exhibition game in the Bay Area on Monday night.
Manager Gabe Kapler and members of the coaching staff joined players Mike Yastrzemski, Austin Slater, and Jaylin Davis and coaches Antoan Richardson and Justin Viele in taking a knee, according to NBC Bay Area. Shortstop Brandon Crawford stood between Richardson and Davis, who are both Black, and placed his hands on their shoulders in an apparent sign of support.
The Giants did not announce before the game against the Oakland A’s at Oakland Coliseum that some members would kneel, but Kapler, who was hired in November, said he had informed the team of his plans.
“I wanted to share what my plans were and I did that because I wanted them to know that I wasn’t pleased with the way our country has handled police brutality. I told them that I wanted to amplify their voices and I wanted to amplify the voice of the Black community and marginalized communities as well,” Kapler said, according to NBC Sports.
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He said the decision was the result of weeks of conversations with community organizations and also with the team.
“I told them that I wanted to use my platform to demonstrate my dissatisfaction with the way we’ve handled racism in our country. I wanted to demonstrate my dissatisfaction with our clear systemic racism in our country,” Kapler said. “And I wanted them to know that they got to make their own decisions and we would respect and support those decisions. I wanted them to feel safe in speaking up, and so we had these kinds of discussions for the last several days and will continue to have them.”
Asked if he and other Giants would continue kneeling, Kapler said, “We’re going to have 60 chances during the regular season to make the same decision that we made today, to either stand or kneel or do something different.”
In a statement, Farhan Zaidi, the President of Baseball Operations for the San Francisco Giants, said the team was “proud of our players and staff for continuing to participate in the national conversation about racial injustice.”
“We support those who knelt peacefully to protest racial injustice and those who stood to express love of country. We do not see these as mutually exclusive sentiments and believe the freedom to express both is what our country is about,” the statement said. “As an organization, we reaffirm our denouncement of acts of discrimination and violence against members of the Black community and our pledge to work together with those who seek to end racial justice in America.”
MLB shared video of the kneeling moment on Twitter, and defended those who knelt. “Supporting human rights is not political,” MLB responded to one critical fan. To another person complaining that kneeling during the anthem disrespected the military and the flag, the league said, “It has never been about the military or the flag. The players and coaches are using their platforms to peacefully protest.”
On the same field in 2017, Bruce Maxwell, catcher for the Oakland A’s, was the first MLB player to take a knee. Although his team expressed support at the time, Maxwell told NBC Sports that the Giants’ gesture Monday received a far more positive response.
“It’s definitely night and day,” Maxwell said of the reactions. “It’s a different experience, a different response in this day and age than back in 2017, extremely. But it’s good to see,” Maxwell said after the Giants beat the A’s in the Monday game.
“I felt joy, honestly,” Maxwell said. “That was probably my primary emotion. To feel joy that the message and the purpose of the kneeling is being spread among our sport.”
Meanwhile on Monday, Los Angeles Angels reliever Keynan Middleton also kneeled and raised his fist during the national anthem before an Angels game against the San Diego Padres in Petco Park, NBC Sports reported.