San Francisco Giants manager Gabe Kapler plans to use his position to speak out against racial injustice and provide a voice for those who aren't heard.
Kapler and several of his players knelt during the national anthem before their 6-2 exhibition victory against the Oakland Athletics. Kapler shared his plans when he addressed the team earlier Monday, and he said everyone would be supported by the Giants no matter what they decided to do.
“I wanted them to know that I wasn't pleased with the way our country has handled police brutality and I told them I wanted to amplify their voices and I wanted to amplify the voice of the Black community and marginalized communities as well," Kapler said. "So 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 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."
Right fielder Jaylin Davis, who is African American, and first base coach Antoan Richardson also took a knee as shortstop Brandon Crawford stood between them with a hand on each of their shoulders. Davis held his right hand over his heart, while Richardson, who is Black and from the Bahamas, clasped his hands in front of him.
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Much discussion went into each person's choice, and Kapler said some of the Giants reached out to other organizations. Kapler said the Giants would continue to have such important discussions together as a team and “make them a part of the fabric of our clubhouse."
“We've had a lot of conversations about the anthem over the course of the last 72 hours and when I say we, I mean our coaching staff and our players,” Kapler said. “We connected with small groups of players, we connected with players individually and had meaningful conversations about this topic.”
It was on the same field where former A’s catcher Bruce Maxwell in 2017 became the first major leaguer to kneel for the anthem.
In San Diego, Angels reliever Keynan Middleton kneeled and raised his right fist during the national anthem before the team's 1-0 victory over the Padres.
Angels manager Joe Maddon said Middleton told him in advance he wanted to kneel, and the team was “totally supportive” of the decision.
“I'm very proud that he stood up for his beliefs tonight. I really am,” Maddon said. “It's not easy to do that, a young man like himself, being the only one out here doing that.”
Kapler, beginning his first season managing the Giants after two disappointing years guiding the Phillies, didn't say for certain how often he would kneel except that “we're going to have 60 chances in the regular season to make the same decision that we made today, to either stand or kneel or do something different. Right now it's another opportunity tomorrow night.”
Kapler has been outspoken about social injustice and racial issues and athletes' roles in helping spur positive change.
“They felt strong about the issue so they knelt,” A's pitcher Mike Fiers said.
Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started taking a knee during the national anthem in 2016 to protest racial inequality and police mistreatment of minorities. He was roundly criticized for years, but public sentiment has changed since George Floyd’s death in May.
Floyd, a Black man, died after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck while Floyd was handcuffed and saying that he couldn’t breathe.
Also Monday, Alyssa Nakken — baseball's first woman on a major league staff — got a chance to coach first base for San Francisco.
“Congratulations on making history!” Hunter Pence posted on Twitter shortly after the final out.
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