Major League Pandering: MLB starts season with prominent BLM messaging (op-ed)

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Widespread kneeling during the National Anthem and open support of Black Lives Matter is no longer solely in the realm of professional football.

Major League Baseball preseason games have seen multiple players taking a knee.

At a home exhibition game last week against the Detroit Tigers, four Cincinnati Reds players kneeled as the “Star Spangled Banner” was played.  Three other players put their hands on their kneeling teammates as a show of support.

Reds manager David Bell said this action was a sign of “respect.” 

He said:

“It was out of respect for everything that is great and good about our country, the sacrifices and the hard work that allow us to be here today.

“It also, the standing and kneeling, represents how much each individual on this team cares. If there is anything we can do to change and help us improve and become an even greater country, and certainly to stand against anything that our country doesn’t stand for, whether that’s racism or anything that’s unfair.”

Also at that game, several of the Tigers players and some coaches stayed inside the clubhouse during the anthem, with the approval of manager Ron Gardenhire. 

Shortstop Niko Goodrum explained:

“We had a meeting to decide what we wanted to do, and that’s what we decided on doing. So we just stayed in for the anthem and came out ready to play ball.”

This week, the manager of the San Francisco Giants, Gabe Kapler, kneeled during the anthem before their preseason game on Monday.  He was accompanied by several of his players.

Kapler said he told his players:

“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.”

Los Angeles Angels pitcher Kenyan Middleton kneeled alone and held a clenched right fist overhead during the anthem before his preseason game against the San Diego Padres Monday.  Middleton did so with the blessing of his team and the team’s manager, Joe Maddon, who said he was “really proud” of Middleton.

Middleton stated:

“Kneeling for me is one way I can use my platform for change in a peaceful way. I have the utmost respect for all the brave men and women that served this country. We must all take this fight against racial injustice seriously.

“Until things start to change in this country and my brothers and sisters don’t have to live in fear I will be using my platform to implement change.”

As the delayed 60-game season opened, players, coaches and managers set the tone for how Major League Baseball would address the National Anthem and the Black Lives Matter movement.

Players were allowed on opening day to wear patches with “Black Lives Matter” or “United for Change” on their sleeves. 

Also, stenciling of “BLM” or “United for Change” on the back of the pitcher’s mound was permitted. Black Lives Matter or other social justice message t-shirts were allowed to be worn during batting practice. 

MLB has also given the thumbs-up now to social justice messages on cleats.

On Thursday night, the Nationals and Yankees coordinated their pregame actions.  The teams viewed a Black Lives Matter video calling for racial justice.  The video was created by The Players Alliance, a group of former and current black baseball players formed after the death of George Floyd.

Then both teams held a black piece of cloth representing “a show of unity” along the first and third baselines.  Players and coaches knelt for approximately 20-25 seconds during a moment of silence. 

Yankees right fielder Giancarlo Stanton explained that the kneeling had different meanings for everybody. 

He stated:

“To have everyone kneel at the same time, it was to give hope to any overall reason you want to do it.  For me, it’s for the racial injustice and Black lives in general. And a lot of other things going on. We all have individual reasons to do so.”

The Yankees and Nationals stood during a recorded broadcast of the National Anthem, while kneeling before hand.

Also on Thursday, at the Dodgers/Giants game, and at all other season openers on Friday, a similar process was followed.  A video by Players Alliance was played, and players held a long black cloth, then took a moment of silence, with or without kneeling.

Some Giants players and coaches, as well as manager Gabe Kapler, remained kneeling for the anthem.  Dodger player Mookie Betts also kneeled, with two other players placing hands on his shoulders.

Kapler told USA Today:

“I don’t see it as disrespect at all.  I see nothing more American than standing up for what you believe in.” 

One Giants player stood alone, however – literally.  While his teammates and the opposing Dodgers held the black cloth and took a knee, Giants pitcher Sam Coonrod refused to do so, telling reporters:

“I’m a Christian, so I just believe that I can’t kneel before anything besides God.”

He added:

“I just can’t get on board with a couple things I’ve read about Black Lives Matter, how they lean towards Marxism.  And … they said some negative things about the nuclear family. I just can’t get on board with that.”

Many kneeled at Friday’s openers as well.

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At the Rays/Blue Jays game in St. Petersburg, no Rays players knelt during the moment of silence, while half the Toronto Blue Jays players took a knee. 

Then Rays first base coach Ozzie Timmons knelt during the National Anthem, joined by third base coach Rodney Linares.

Two Blue Jays players also knelt during the Canadian national anthem, and were joined by several others when the U.S. National Anthem was played.

In Houston, six Seattle Mariners stood with raised right fists as their teammates held their hands over their hearts during the anthem.

In Chicago, two of the White Sox players and coaches knelt during the holding of the black cloth, and eight White Sox players knelt for the anthem.

White Sox starting pitcher Lucas Giolito explained:

“I think us as baseball players, if we have something we believe in, we have something we want to continue to keep in the public eye, then it’s our right to be able to say that, whether it be peaceful protest or conversation.…

“For change to happen, there has to be disruption, disruption from the status quo. That’s what I believe in.”

When the Minnesota Twins met the White Sox Friday, player Zack Littel knelt during the moment of silence, and seven players, two coaches, and manager Rocco Baldelli took a knee for the National Anthem.

Twins president of baseball operations Derek Falvey told mlb.com,

“I think there’s nothing more that’s representative of being here in this country and in this community and in this environment than having the ability to express your individual convictions.

“I think our players did, and did it in a really respectful manner, as Rocco did as well. I think it was a powerful moment and a powerful tribute on a lot of levels to starting off this season using our platform appropriately.”

In Pittsburgh, Pirates center fielder Jarrod Dyson knelt for the anthem, while the rest of his team stood.  All the Cardinals stood for the anthem.

At home in Cleveland against the Royals, the Indians chose to wear their road jerseys which read “Cleveland” on the front.  The franchise is considering a name change and made the decision to wear jerseys without “Indians” in order to acknowledge minorities.

Shortstop Francisco Lindor said:

“That’s what we’re doing out there — bringing the spotlight on those people, minorities that need the spotlight on them so their voices can be heard. Positive change can happen. We’re due for it.”

Several Indians players knelt during the moment of silence, but all rose to their feet for the anthem Friday.  Just as they had during preseason games, the players all stood, placed their right hands over their hearts, and their left hand on the shoulder of the player next to them.

Lindor told reporters that this gesture was “their way of being respectful to the flag and anthem while showing their support for BLM and other minorities.”

He added,

“As a team, as the big platform we all have, we are responsible to bring awareness and let the world know we have to end racism.

“We have a big, big spotlight to be able to bring that awareness to the world.

“We don’t have to go out there and fight, but the non-violent protests like this are huge, to be able to fight the fight without bringing violence and just expressing our feelings, it’s a big part of what we do.”

But what, exactly are these highly varied gestures doing?

One thing that is consistent is their inconsistency.  For some it’s about racism.  For others, it’s about whatever they want it to be.  Some stand, some kneel, some raise fists, some kneel for the moment of silence but not for the anthem, and some kneel for both the Canadian and US Anthems.  Some didn’t come out of the clubhouse at all for the anthem.  

So is this really about raising awareness of the Black Lives Matter organization and the narrative of “systemic racism?”

Any person would have to be living under a rock not to be already aware of the daily Black Lives Matter protests and riots, and their domination of the news cycle on all networks.  We are all pretty aware of the constant presence of Black Lives Matter in our lives.

What about the arguments that kneeling still shows “respect” for the country?  That flies entirely in the face of the actions and words of failed NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who famously started the movement to kneel during the anthem in 2016. 

Kaepernick recently doubled down on his disdain for this nation when he tweeted on July 4:

“We reject your celebration of white supremacy and look forward to liberation for all.”

Not everyone is pleased about the virtue signaling and pandering.

Some MLB fans took to twitter to express their dismay.

One twitter user wrote:

“I have been a baseball fan my entire life.  Now MLB decides to make political statements in support of BLM and players are kneeling during the National Anthem.  I won’t watch and I deleted my MLB and Ballpark app along with paid subscriptions.”

Another wrote:

“Man… all day, everywhere I look, everything I listen to, I’m surrounded by politics, the ugliness of this world.  I love baseball!  I watch it to escape all of this craziness.  Keep political propaganda out of sports!”

And another tweeted:

“I cannot support MLB alignment with Marxist terror org and political movement.”

Meanwhile, black communities have been crying out for mentoring and other assistance as black-on-black crime ravages families and children.

What will the political posturing do for these people?  Will the MLB be putting money and muscle behind actual beneficial action and assistance?

True, there have been some overtures.

The Rays committed $100,000 to various organizations involved in “fighting systemic racism.”  It is not clear exactly how that money will be used.

The Dodgers, valued at $3.4 billion,  have offered to match funds raised from sales of T-shirts that say, “In this together.”  Money raised will go to the California Funders for Boys & Men of Color Southern California: Our Kids, Our Future Fund (CFBMoC).

The Rangers have put out a video describing the formation of the Players Alliance and “talks” within the team:

“About how we can bring healing to our communities.”

Interestingly, shortstop Elvis Andrus says in the video,

“…we have chosen to put politics aside…”

Pitcher Cory Kluber mentions in the video that there are:

“… multiple players who are already investing in their communities, and our goal this year is to partner with them to raise money and awareness for these causes in the Metroplex area that are doing their part to end racism.”

So far, there seems to be largely money and lip service thrown at the issues.

If the daily and highly publicized angst and anger is to be believed, black communities and racial relations have clearly not thrived after Kaepernick started his kneeling four years ago.

What reason do we have to believe that the gestures by Major League Baseball will have any positive effect?

And will additional social messaging be permitted to allow other points of view?

Meanwhile, sadly, a beloved American pastime has been disrupted by politics and virtue signaling.

 

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