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Giants manager Gabe Kapler, players kneel during anthem
10:28 PM ET
  • ESPN News Services

OAKLAND, Calif. — San Francisco Giants manager Gabe Kapler plans to use his position to speak out against racial injustice and provide a voice for those who aren’t heard.

Kapler and several of his players knelt during the national anthem before the Giants’ 6-2 exhibition victory at the Oakland Athletics. Kapler shared his plans when he addressed the team earlier Monday, and he said all players would be supported by the Giants, no matter what they decided to do.

“I wanted them to know that I wasn’t pleased with the way our country has handled police brutality, and I told them I wanted to amplify their voices and I wanted to amplify the voice of the Black community and marginalized communities as well,” Kapler said. “So 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.”

Giants right fielder Jaylin Davis and first-base coach Antoan Richardson, both of whom are Black, also took a knee. Shortstop Brandon Crawford stood between them with a hand on each of their shoulders. Davis held his right hand over his heart, and Richardson, who is from the Bahamas, clasped his hands in front of him.

Much discussion went into each person’s choice, and Kapler said some of the Giants reached out to other organizations. Kapler said the Giants will continue to have such important discussions together as a team and “make them a part of the fabric of our clubhouse.”

“We’ve had a lot of conversations about the anthem over the course of the last 72 hours, and when I say we, I mean our coaching staff and our players,” Kapler said. “We connected with small groups of players. We connected with players individually and had meaningful conversations about this topic.”

It was on the same field that former A’s catcher Bruce Maxwell in 2017 became the first major leaguer to kneel for the anthem.

Giants president Farhan Zaidi said in a statement after the game that the entire organization is “proud of our players and staff for continuing to participate in the national conversation about racial injustice.”

“We support those who knelt to peacefully protest racial injustice and those who stood to express love of country,” the statement continued. “We do not see these as mutually exclusive sentiments and believe the freedom to express both is what our country is about.”

As he has in the past, President Donald Trump on Tuesday tweeted his thoughts on kneeling during the national anthem.

Looking forward to live sports, but any time I witness a player kneeling during the National Anthem, a sign of great disrespect for our Country and our Flag, the game is over for me!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 21, 2020

“Looking forward to live sports, but any time I witness a player kneeling during the National Anthem, a sign of great disrespect for our Country and our Flag, the game is over for me!”

Kapler, who is beginning his first season managing the Giants after two disappointing years guiding the Philadelphia Phillies, didn’t say how often he would kneel but noted, “We’re going to have 60 chances in the regular season to make the same decision that we made today, to either stand or kneel or do something different. Right now, it’s another opportunity tomorrow night.”

Kapler has been outspoken about social injustice and racial issues and athletes’ roles in helping spur positive change.

“They felt strong about the issue, so they knelt,” A’s pitcher Mike Fiers said.

Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started taking a knee during the national anthem in 2016 to protest racial inequality and police mistreatment of minorities. He was roundly criticized for years, but public sentiment has changed since George Floyd’s death in May. Floyd, a Black man, died after a white Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck for more than seven minutes while Floyd was handcuffed and saying that he couldn’t breathe.

On Monday in San Diego, Los Angeles Angels reliever Keynan Middleton, who is Black, kneeled and raised his right fist during the national anthem before the Angels’ 1-0 victory over the Padres.

On Tuesday, he posted on Twitter, “Until things start to change in this country and my brothers and sisters don’t have to live in fear, I will be using my platform to implement change.”

✊🏽❤️✊🏽 pic.twitter.com/JlSDhd9XGV

— La llave🗝 (@since93key) July 21, 2020

Angels manager Joe Maddon said Middleton told him in advance that he wanted to kneel, and the team was “totally supportive” of the decision.

“I’m very proud that he stood up for his beliefs tonight. I really am,” Maddon said. “It’s not easy to do that, a young man like himself, being the only one out here doing that.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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