The Nationals and New York Yankees joined together in a powerful moment prior to their Opening Day matchup on Thursday as players and staff from both sides kneeled while holding a black cloth prior to the playing of the national anthem.
Showing their support for the Black Lives Matter movement, the teams opted to share a moment of unity before eventually standing for the anthem, following members of the Giants and Reds organizations who kneeled during the anthem before exhibition games earlier in the week. Taking a knee during the anthem is something that numerous athletes across sports have used as a form of peaceful protest, beginning with Colin Kaepernick in 2016.
The coordinated gesture wasn't something that happened spontaneously as the teams took the field. It had been discussed and planned throughout the days leading up to the first game.
“I got together with our players and talked about what might transpire and how we wanted to handle this," Nationals manager Davey Martinez said. "We definitely wanted to be united through this whole thing.”
“The kneeling thing was something both teams kind of came up with over the last few days," Washington reliever Sean Doolittle said. "I know both teams had team meetings about it, we had another team meeting about it today before batting practice just so everybody would be on the same page and we had it down.”
Doolittle, who had explained earlier in the week that the teams were discussing what to do, noted that the black cloth in front of the players was an idea that was worked on between the union and the league.
For the Nationals and Yankees, the importance of the decision to kneel stemmed from two factors. The first was to continue to bring attention to the problems from systemic racism which America faces on a daily basis.
“To show support for the other athletes who have done it in other sports and so far in baseball," Doolittle said. "To show support for the movement about Black Lives Matter and ending police brutality and racism and injustice."
"We know there are issues in this country, and we need changes," Martinez said. "We need changes for the better and these guys all understand that.”
Additionally, the reason the players opted to join together was to demonstrate their unity as a league. By kneeling for a moment of silence before the anthem, it was a way to get every member of both organizations involved.
“I thought it was emotional, I thought it was powerful, I thought it was important for us and the Yankees that everybody bought in and we had full participation and presented a united front during that moment," Doolittle said.
As Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer explained, that moment allowed everyone to be the same, which embodies the reasoning behind the gesture.
“Everybody was unified, everybody did the same thing at once," Scherzer said. "One person wasn’t more than the other.”
Stay connected to the Nationals with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.
MORE NATIONALS NEWS: