Entire Softball Team Quits, Forms New Team After GM Uses Photo to Promote Anti-Kneeling Stance
“We were used as pawns in a political post, and that’s not OK," said player Cal Osterman
All 18 players on a professional softball team walked away and formed a new team of their own after their former general manager tweeted at President Donald Trump to tout the fact that players were standing during the national anthem in support of the flag — a message the players called “tone deaf” and said greatly misrepresented their values.
Each member of Scrap Yard Fast Pitch, which is based in Texas, quit the team last week in light of the since-deleted tweet, which was written by General Manager Connie May and shared to the team’s Twitter account, according to Time.
“Hey @realDonaldTrump Pro Fastpitch being played live … Everyone standing for the FLAG!” the tweet read, alongside a photo of the players standing on the field.
Kneeling during the national anthem began in 2016 as a peaceful protest against racial injustice and police brutality, and was first exhibited by Colin Kaepernick in the NFL before it spread to other sports.
The tweet was sent during the first of what was supposed to be seven games against the USSSA Pride in Florida — but when the Scrap Yard players learned about the tweet after the game in the locker room, they decided to walk away.
Many told The New York Times they were upset that May had spoken for them without their consent in a way that implied they do not support the Black Lives Matter movement.
“The more we talked about it, the angrier I got, and I finally just said, ‘I’m done, I’m not going to wear this jersey,’ ” pitcher and Olympic gold medalist Cat Osterman told the Times. “We were used as pawns in a political post, and that’s not OK.”
The paper also reported that May came to talk with the players, but repeated the phrase, “All lives matter.”
“I never really thought that she didn’t care about my life or Kiki [Stokes’] life until that post,” said Kelsey Stewart, one of two Black players on the team.
Stokes, meanwhile, shared an emotional statement on Twitter saying she had never felt “so hurt” throughout her entire playing career.
“I have never felt so small in a locker room, so helpless, so lonely..,” she wrote. “I feel betrayed, embarrassed, disgusted, angry ... to come to into that locker room after a game and have no idea that the organization I stayed loyal to for the last five years and put my honest to God heart and soul into wasn’t looking out for me but more importantly my community hurts.
Other players, like Haylie McCleney, also expressed their outrage on Twitter.
“We might be standing in this photo but we SURE AS HELL AREN’T STANDING FOR THIS. I’m embarrassed. I’m heartbroken. I’m DISGUSTED. @ScrapYardFP I will never be associated with your organization again. BLACK LIVES MATTER. The tone deafness on this is UNBELIEVABLE!!!!!,” McCleney wrote.
Together, the 18 former Scrap Yard players are joining forces to compete as a new team called This Is Us, which plans to use a donation-based financial model to continue playing the more than 25 games they had scheduled against the USSSA Pride, according to ESPN.
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“Playing would be really powerful, taking that control back that was taken away from us,” infielder Sam Fischer told the outlet. “Everybody was pretty much on board immediately about wanting to play, so it was about, ‘What does that look like and how does it happen?’”
This Is Us currently has a page set up to accept donations, on which it lists its statement in part as: “We are here to spark a necessary change in the softball community, gaining and sharing knowledge about racial injustice in our world.”
Scrap Yard did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment. May has been the team’s general manager since the start of its 2015 inaugural season, according to her team biography.