MLB is just days away from returning to play. Many who are involved have been using their platforms to speak out against racial injustice and other issues across America.
One person in particular who is using their voice is former Phillies manager Gabe Kapler, now manager of the Giants. Kapler used the first opportunity he had before his team’s scrimmage game Monday to keep these crucial conversations going.
After informing his players of a decision he made prior to the game, Kapler, along with others in the organization, kneeled during the anthem. He noted that he “wanted them to feel safe in speaking up,” and would support each individual in what they chose to do.
His actions opened up another door that he was hoping for, which is furthering the discussion about racial injustice. Kapler discussed his decisions and reasoning with NBC Sports California.
“One of the things that I heard and continue to hear is that we have an opportunity,” Kapler said. “When I say we — I mean people in positions of authority in sports, people in positions of privilege in sports, have both the responsibility and opportunity to amplify the voices of Black people.
“I take that responsibility pretty seriously. Again, I have a lot to learn and a lot of listening to do. But I also feel like it’s the right time to speak loudly in sports while all eyes are on us. I don’t want this time period to pass without us representing in the right way. When I say us, I continue to mean people in our industry.”
Times have certainly changed within the league. It has been only three seasons since Bruce Maxwell, former Oakland A’s catcher, kneeled during the anthem in 2017. Maxwell was the first big-leaguer to do so and received a lot of backlash for the decision.
“The point of my kneeling is not to disrespect our military,” Maxwell said following the first time he kneeled on Sept. 27, 2017. “My kneeling is what is getting the attention because I’m kneeling for the people that don’t have a voice.”
While Maxwell is no longer in the league — he was happy to see the events that unfolded Monday night at Oracle Park, the same place where he kneeled three seasons earlier.
“I felt joy, honestly,” Maxwell told NBC Sports California’s Laura Britt. “That was probably my primary emotion. To feel joy that the message and purpose of the kneeling is being spread among our sport. To see the selflessness of the players and to stand as one, with Kapler, other players took a knee tonight just to see it, man, it was joyous for me.”
Maxwell spoke highly of Kapler and said seeing someone in a managerial position kneel was a step in the right direction.
“I think he put his title on that field aside to stand for something that was bigger than himself, bigger than the game we play and to spread awareness of injustice in humanity that’s going on right now in our country,” Maxwell said about Kapler. “I think it’s very selfless of him. A lot of vulnerability that he showed tonight and very proud of that.”
And even as baseball is approaching, what’s being discussed is far bigger than the game itself — and Kapler stands with that notion.
“We know baseball is coming,” Kapler said. “The goal here is to not stop feeling the feelings. The rage, the disgust, the dissatisfaction with where we were then. When everyone was posting on social media and it was amplified — even more than it is right now. When I say it, I’m talking about social injustice, inequality, police brutality, systemic racism, etc.
“Now that, that spotlight or that time period has changed and maybe people are starting to think about sports. We don’t let that happen. I think the way to do it different is, we’re still going to make this more important than baseball.
“When I prioritize my day, I would prefer to have this discussion than I would talk about our lineups, our defensive configurations, our skills and our drills. They come second to these conversations and I think if everyone said ‘let’s have the tough conversations first before we get to nuts and bolts of the day, prioritize these,’ I think that would be, very humbly, a good place to start.”
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