The San Francisco Giants beat the Oakland A’s 6-2 on Monday night, in the first exhibition game of the summer. Yet what the Giants did with the bats and baseballs weren’t the most important aspects of the night.
No, that distinction goes to a number of players and coaches taking a knee during the national anthem, and to Alyssa Naken for becoming the first woman to coach on the field in an MLB game.
Prior to the game, the broadcast cameras showed five members of the Giants taking a knee, as a sign of solidarity and protest against police brutality and systemic racism. Those five were outfielders Jaylin Davis, Mike Yastrzemski, and Austin Slater, as well as manager Gabe Kapler and first base coach Antoan Richardson. It was later confirmed that they were joined by pitchers Trevor Gott and Tyler Cyr, catcher Chadwick Tromp, pitching coach Ethan Katz, and co-hitting coach Justin Viele.
Gabe Kapler pointed out that Trevor Gott and pitching coach Ethan Katz were also kneeling in bullpen. Tyler Cyr and Chadwick Tromp were, as well. pic.twitter.com/WeWnN4YXgX— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) July 21, 2020
After the game, they spoke about the reason behind their respective decisions.
Davis said that he “vowed to use my platform to speak up for what I believe in,” and expressed gratitude that the organization supports that.
Kapler said that he wanted to make sure players felt comfortable expressing themselves and their beliefs, and that he felt compelled to “demonstrate my dissatisfaction with the way we’ve handled racism in our country.”
Gabe Kapler on kneeling tonight: "I wanted to use my platform to demonstrate my dissatisfaction with the way we've handled racism in our country." Here's what he told his team: pic.twitter.com/GmGFtHM1Zp— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) July 21, 2020
Slater admitted that it wasn’t until recently that he realized how much privilege and safety were afforded to him simply because of the color of his skin, and said the decision to kneel was because “I strongly believe change needs to happen, and believe this is the proper way to demonstrate my beliefs on the subject.”
A statement from the Giants' Austin Slater on his decision to peacefully protest racial injustice by taking a knee for the anthem tonight: pic.twitter.com/lqtLkx8sE7— Andrew Baggarly (@extrabaggs) July 21, 2020
President of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi released a statement through the team’s social media, expressing pride in the players, and reaffirming the franchise’s stance on equality, equity, and social justice.
Yastrzemski stated that he “wanted to hold myself, and hopefully others, accountable that something needs to change.”
Here’s what Mike Yastrzemski posted on Instagram about kneeling during the anthem last night. Ends with “we all deserve the freedom that our veterans and active members have sacrificed their lives for.” pic.twitter.com/ulSpirrWSk— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) July 21, 2020
Shortstop Brandon Crawford stood between Davis and Richardson, with a hand on each person’s shoulder. He followed that with words of support, and noted that he had discussed the anthem with Davis directly.
I asked Brandon Crawford about his decision to put his hands on the shoulders of a kneeling Antoan Richardson and Jaylin Davis. His reply:— Henry Schulman (@hankschulman) July 21, 2020
"The anthem was something that had been discussed a little bit as a team and was something I personally went back and forth with ...
... for a while. Ultimately, I chose to stand because Jalynne’s brother was in the military when he was younger and standing for the flag and what it is supposed to represent is a big deal for them, so it is for me too. That does not at all mean that ....— Henry Schulman (@hankschulman) July 21, 2020
.... I don’t support the movement, or condone police brutality or inequality. I talked to Jaylin about putting my hand on his shoulder to show my support for him and the movement while still standing for the flag because of family being in the military. He was good with it ...— Henry Schulman (@hankschulman) July 21, 2020
and appreciated it. Antoan happened to be next to me also so I put my other hand on him for the same reasons. He thanked me for it afterwards. The biggest thing we talked about as a team was that we would support each other and be there for each other. Whether or not ....— Henry Schulman (@hankschulman) July 21, 2020
we kneel, I think that’s what this is all about. Being there to support and love each other."— Henry Schulman (@hankschulman) July 21, 2020
With another exhibition game, plus 60 regular season games on the schedule, Davis said he wasn’t sure whether or not he would continue to kneel. He did, however, note that this won’t be the last we see from the organization on the matter.
Jaylin Davis said it meant a lot to him that coaches and teammates Mike Yastrzemski and Austin Slater joined in last night. He said he's not sure if he will continue kneeling. "We (MLB and the Giants) have some other things planned too," he said.— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) July 21, 2020
That’s certainly good to hear. Monday’s showing was extremely powerful, and hopefully the organization follows it up with consistent action.