Giants' Gabe Kapler Becomes First MLB Manager to Kneel During Anthem Alongside Players
"I told them I wanted to amplify their voices, and I wanted to amplify the voices of the Black community and marginalized communities as well," manager Gabe Kapler said
As several San Francisco Giants players took a knee Monday night for the national anthem, manager Gabe Kapler was right beside them, making him the first Major League Baseball manager to peacefully protest racial injustice on the field.
Kapler, 44, kneeled as the national anthem played ahead of the Giants’ exhibition game against the Oakland A’s.
He is believed to be the first manager or head coach of any of the four major North American professional sports leagues to do so, according to the Washington Post.
Joining him were players Jaylin Davis, Mike Yastrzemski and Austin Davis, as well as first base coach Antoan Richardson and hitting coach Justin Viele.
The team shared video of the moment accompanied by the hashtag, “Black Lives Matter.”
Kapler, who joined the team ahead of the 2020 season, said he alerted the Giants ahead of time that he would be kneeling, as he wanted the team to know that he was unhappy with the way the United States has handled issues of police brutality.
“I told them I wanted to amplify their voices, and I wanted to amplify the voices of the Black community and marginalized communities as well,” he said, according to a blog shared on the Giants website. “I told them I wanted to use my platform to demonstrate my dissatisfaction with the way we’ve handled racism in our country. I wanted them to know that they got to make their own decisions, and we could respect and support those decisions.”
Kapler — who has been a vocal supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement on social media — added that he wanted his players to feel “safe” in speaking up for what they believe in.
One of those players, outfielder Davis, recently addressed the racism he’s faced throughout his career in a blog for the Giants, which he wrote in light of the killing of George Floyd while in police custody on May 25.
Davis recalled the many times he’d faced racist behavior on the field, including during college at Appalachian State University, and in high school, when he was called the N-word by a player on the opposing team.
“Unless we all find a way to openly talk and genuinely listen to each other about racism, we have no hope of rooting it out,” he said.
Farhan Zaidi, the Giants president of baseball operations, praised Kapler and his players in a statement that commended them for participating 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,” Zaidi wrote. “We do not see these as mutually exclusive sentiments and believe the freedom to express both is what our country is about.”
Kneeling during the national anthem as a form of peaceful protest against racial injustice and police brutality was popularized in 2016 by Colin Kaepernick in the NFL, and soon spread to various other sports. The first baseball player to kneel was Bruce Maxwell, who did so as a catcher for the A’s in 2017.
Following Monday night’s game, the MLB Twitter account shared video of the Giants players and staffers kneeling – and responded to several critics who called the move “disrespectful” to the military.
The MLB will begin its regular season on Thursday, with each team playing a shortened, 60-game season due to the coronavirus pandemic.