Before their first exhibition game of the abbreviated 2020 season against the Oakland A's Monday night, multiple San Francisco Giants players and manager Gabe Kapler took a knee during the national anthem in recognition of the Black Lives Matter movement.
In a statement to ESPN, Kapler said, "I wanted [the team] 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. 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."
Kapler added that the coaching staff and players had "a lot of conversations about the anthem over the course of the last 72 hours."
Outfielders Austin Slater, Jaylin Davis, and Mike Yastrzemski as well as first base coach Antoan Richardson all joined Kapler in the demonstration, as Reuters reports. And Kapler became the first manager in Major League Baseball to make this statement against police brutality, which began four years ago with former 49er Colin Kaepernick.
Giants Manager Gabe Kapler, others kneel during national anthem https://t.co/xkZndBg2eR— CBS News (@CBSNews) July 21, 2020
"I wasn't pleased with the way our country has handled police brutality." - Gabe Kapler addresses why he kneeled during the national anthem pic.twitter.com/u3Tj9PnOeo— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) July 21, 2020
In a post-game statement, Giants president Farhan Zaidi said 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. We do not see these as mutually exclusive sentiments and believe the freedom to express both is what our country is about."
President Trump, of course, didn't miss his 6 a.m. toilet-tweet opportunity to denounce all players taking a knee during the anthem, and saying that when he sees that, "the game is over for me!"
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
The 44-year-old Kapler is just beginning his first season as manager of the Giants, following the retirement of Bruce Bochy. In a July 9 tweet, Kapler wrote, "The number one thing I can do right now is carefully listen to Black people. I can hear their stories, their experiences and their pain. I can ask follow-up questions. I can use my platform and my voice to amplify theirs. The follow-up step is to encourage and have the difficult conversation in the clubhouse."
Last night's exhibition game was also historic for another reason: Coach Alyssa Nakken became the first woman ever to coach on-field during an MLB game.
Nakken already made history earlier this year when she became the first woman to hold a full-time coaching position in American baseball, and she appeared on the field Monday night as first-base coach during the latter part of the exhibition game.
The Giants went on to win the first scrimmage of the season 6-2. And the Giants and A's will play a second exhibition game tonight in San Francisco before the season officially begins later this week.