Multiple San Francisco Giants players and members of the team’s coaching staff knelt during the national anthem of their first exhibition game against the Oakland Athletics.
Even without fans in the crowds, Major League Baseball continues insisting on teams playing the national anthem prior to every contest. As the Oakland Athletics and San Francisco Giants geared up for their first practice game since the suspended season on Monday night, both teams paused for the playing of the anthem.
Not all members stood in attendance.
From the television broadcast, Giants manager Gabe Kapler, first-base coach Antoan Richardson, outfielders Jaylin Davis, Mike Yastrzemski, and Austin Slater were all visibly kneeling. Shortstop Brandon Crawford was between Davis and Richardson and placed a hand on each of their shoulders.
While the season was paused in reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic, the novel coronavirus hasn’t been the only thing reshaping how people view the United States. The police homicides of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor sparked worldwide protests calling for an American reckoning with police brutality.
The ripple effects of the protests began calling for a reexamination of racism throughout American culture. The culture in sports has been one of the many conversations.
Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s protest against police brutality began in 2016. He was protesting the exact behavior that killed Floyd and Taylor but faced ridicule and exclusion for his choice.
Oakland A’s catcher Bruce Maxwell had been the only MLB player to kneel during the national anthem. Howard Bryant of ESPN wrote about his experience. Ultimately, Maxwell felt isolated by the league and chose to forego opportunities to continue playing in the Majors because of it.
Now multiple members of the Giants organization have joined Maxwell. While the culture surrounding the Giants players and staff is far more favorable than the one surrounding Maxwell in 2017, the decision is still significant.
Both Kapler and Davis had been quite open about their disappointment with the current state of the United States in the past few months. In late June, Davis penned a powerful essay on the Giants blog entitled, “The Stories That Are Hardest to Tell” about being a Black person in the United States and professional baseball. Kapler was one of many prominent Bay Area figures to express disgust, disappointment, and anger following Floyd’s murder.
While Richardson is a Black man from the Bahamas, Yastrzemski and Slater are both white. Yastrzemski and Richardson both attended Vanderbilt University. Slater attended Stanford. None have been prominently quoted on the recent events, but clearly felt compelled to kneel.