Gabe Kapler spent most of this week delivering powerful messages with his actions and his words, but inside the Giants' clubhouse, the manager was crystal clear with his players.
They did not have to do anything with which they were uncomfortable. They would not be viewed any differently if they chose to take a knee during the national anthem, or if they chose to stand.
On Thursday night, before the season opener against the Dodgers, many of the Giants again chose to kneel during the anthem. But it was a moment before that which really stood out. Every player and coach from both teams took a knee before the anthem and held a long piece of black fabric in a moment of unity, with the exception of one.
The outlier was Sam Coonrod, a second-year Giants reliever who said after the game that he is a Christian and "can't kneel before anything besides God." He also said he does not agree with some of what he has heard about the Black Lives Matter movement.
"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. "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."
Coonrod said he did not have a chance to talk to teammates, including African-American outfielder Jaylin Davis, a leading voice in recent weeks, before the game because he did not know about the display until very late in the day, when a teammate informed him of what was going to happen. Coonrod said he decided he could not kneel, and "it was too late" at that point to talk to anyone about the decision.
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The Yankees and Nationals all took a knee before the anthem in Washington D.C. earlier in the night as part of a player-led movement that had the full support of Major League Baseball. The idea reportedly came from former Giant Andrew McCutchen, who told ESPN that the black fabric was a socially distanced way to link arms and show unity. Players also wore patches and Black Lives Matter T-shirts during batting practice.
McCutchen said the moment was meant to illustrate that MLB can be a force for change when it comes to addressing injustice.
The Giants have been a big part of that this week, and during the anthem Thursday, Kapler and several players and coaches -- including Davis, Pablo Sandoval, Hunter Pence, Mike Yastrzemski and Trevor Gott -- again took a knee. Mookie Betts was the only Dodger to take a knee during the anthem.
But it was the moments before it when Coonrod stood out.
"I meant no ill will by it. I don't think I'm better than anyone," Coonrod said after the game. "I'm a Christian. I just believe I can't kneel before anything besides God -- Jesus Christ.
"I chose not to kneel. I feel that if I did kneel, I would be being a hypocrite. I didn't want to be a hypocrite. Like I said, I didn't mean any ill will toward anyone."
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After the 8-1 season-opening loss to the Dodgers, Kapler said he had spoken to Coonrod. The right-hander said his favorite thing about Kapler thus far is that he has made it clear he'll always respect opinions, no matter how two individuals might differ on the topic.
"He's not going to get mad if I disagree with him," Coonrod said. "I think that's part of the problem nowadays. People get mad whenever someone disagrees. I'm not mad at someone that decided to kneel. I think it's not too much to ask that I just get the same respect, you know?"
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