Sam Coonrod didn't pitch in Thursday night's season opener, but one day later, the Giants reliever found himself as the most talked-about player in MLB.
Coonrod was the lone player on either side who did not take a knee during a moment of unity before the national anthem at Dodger Stadium, one that has been replayed in stadiums across the country on the opening day for 26 other teams.
After the game, on a Zoom call with reporters, Coonrod said he believes his faith does not allow him to kneel before anyone but God. It was his comments at the end of the call, though, that really turned into a firestorm overnight.
"I'm a Christian, like I said, and I just can't get on board with a couple of things that I have read about Black Lives Matter," Coonrod said when asked about the movement. "How they lean toward Marxism and they've said some negative things about the nuclear family. I just can't get on board with that."
One day later, Giants manager Gabe Kapler, who has taken a knee during all three games this week, said he had spoken to the 27-year-old reliever.
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"I support him expressing himself and sharing his beliefs," Kapler said. "I support all of our players sharing their thoughts, and it means we're able to have a conversation about really important topics when we're constantly communicating. Sam said that he's going to be talking to people about these issues now, more, because of last night's events, and I'm happy to share my position with him.
"Black Lives Matter is, to me, not a political issue but a simple statement of something I believe to be true. It's a movement. I want to work toward ending racial inequality. I want us to promote social justice, and it's really important that we amplify voices of marginalized groups and create pipelines to increase diversity in this industry in particular."
Kapler has been outspoken in his beliefs in recent weeks. He addressed reporters Friday with a Black Lives Matter T-shirt on, and said he has spoken to players around the league in recent days as the moment was planned. It appeared to morph overnight. The players who opened their season Thursday took a knee while holding the long piece of black fabric, but on Friday, most teams stood. There were some exceptions, including former Giant Sergio Romo.
And Duffey and Romo pic.twitter.com/39ZUBCZfTk— LaVelle E. Neal III (@LaVelleNeal) July 25, 2020
Coonrod said Thursday night that he did not learn about the plans until it was too late for him to talk to anyone. He chose to stand. Kapler said the plans did evolve over the course of the week.
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However he got there, when the moment came, Coonrod was the only one of 60 players at Dodger Stadium who did not kneel. He unexpectedly found himself as a national story, and Kapler said he would continue to communicate with Coonrod as this plays out.
"Sam and I are going to continue to talk every day so that he understands my position, and I want to understand his better," Kapler said. "These are ongoing conversations."