For weeks, as the Black Lives Matter movement dominated the national conversation, Gabe Kapler listened. He tried to figure out how to best support his team and his community, one in which he now is a central figure.
Kapler, the son of parents who were active in the civil rights movement, has always had a strong commitment to equality, but in recent weeks he has started to more actively use his platform. He became more vocal on Twitter and Instagram, posting regularly in support of the movement, and when he got back to San Francisco after months in Arizona, he became a frequent visitor of local Black-owned businesses on both sides of the bay. He merged causes at one point, contacting a Black-owned restaurant in the Inner Richmond and ordering lunch for the emergency room staff at a local hospital overrun by COVID-19 cases.
On Monday, Kapler's platform was expanded. He took full advantage of it.
The Giants played a televised game in the Bay Area for the first time since Kapler was hired in November, and during the national anthem, Kapler took a knee in the dirt in front of the home dugout at the Coliseum. Outfielder Jaylin Davis and first base coach Antoan Richardson, both of whom are Black, took a knee as well, along with outfielders Austin Slater and Mike Yastrzemski and hitting coach Justin Viele, all of whom are white. Shortstop Brandon Crawford stood, but put a hand on the shoulders of both Davis and Richardson.
A bunch of Giants players and coaches kneeled for the anthem. Brandon Crawford put his hands on the shoulders of Jaylin Davis and Antoan Richardson: pic.twitter.com/2XsIg8oFjw— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) July 21, 2020
Kapler said the powerful image was the culmination of weeks of conversations with organizations in the community and 72 hours of clubhouse discussions. He said the Giants connected in small groups and also individually, and the message from the manager was clear. He told his players that they would not be judged one way or the other no matter what they decided to do, and he also told them what he was going to do.
"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. "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, and so we had these kinds of discussions for the last several days and will continue to have them."
These are discussions that have not traditionally taken place in baseball. Kapler took a knee a few yards from the spot where A's catcher Bruce Maxwell once did the same to a much harsher reception. But the hope is that things are changing for the better, and if they're not doing so fast enough, Kapler and others with his platform will try to push the process along. President of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi, now one of the most powerful executives in the sport, followed with his own statement:
"We are going to continue to ensure that our players and staff feel safe expressing themselves and peacefully protesting in any way they choose," Kapler said.
The Giants play another exhibition against the A's tomorrow, this time at home, and then travel to Los Angeles for a high-profile series. They will play the second game of the MLB season on Thursday night. The game will be nationally-televised, and two other weekend games have a national audience.
[RELATED: MLB Twitter defends Giants kneeling]
Kapler was asked if he would continue kneeling and said he wouldn't make predictions about what players or staff would do in the future. But he also did not at all sound like a man content with just Monday's message.
"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," he said. "We're going to have another opportunity tomorrow night. If all goes well, we'll have more opportunities than that."
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