Will Kaepernick's Protest Against Racism Spread to Baseball?
One of the unforeseen results of San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick taking a stand against racism and police brutality, by at first sitting, and later taking a knee, during the playing of the national anthem before NFL games, is that other athletes in other sports are being asked to comment.
While several African American players in the NFL have sat, kneeled, or raised gloved fists during the national anthem in solidarity, few athletes in other sports, save soccer's Megan Rapinoe, have done so.
And, according to Baltimore Orioles' centerfielder Adam Jones, there isn't likely to be any overt displays of protest coming from African American baseball players. because, as he told USA Today, "Baseball is a white man's sport."
Next season will be the 70th anniversary of that day in April when the Brooklyn Dodgers' Jackie Robinson took the field, breaking the color barrier in major league baseball. A few days ago, Jones told USA Today that while he and some other players might be sympathetic to Kaepernick and the causes he is bringing attention to, people should not expect African Americans in baseball to publicly protest.
In an in-depth discussion with the newspaper, Jones pointed to the dwindling numbers of African Americans in baseball, and said: "We already have two strikes against us already, so you might as well not kick yourself out of the game. In football, you can't kick them out. You need those players. In baseball, they don't need us."
Jones, who recently received the Orioles' nomination for the Roberto Clemente award for his community involvement, philanthropy and contributions, said, Kaepernick "believes in what he believes in, and as a man of faith, as an American who has rights, who am I to say he's wrong?
"Kaepernick is not disrespecting the military. He's not disrespecting people who they're fighting. What he's doing is showing that he doesn't like the social injustice that the flag represents.
"Look, I know a lot of people who don't even know the words to the national anthem. You know how many times I see people stand up for the national anthem and not pay attention. They stand because they're told to stand.
"That's the problem. Just don't do something because you're told to do something. Do it because you understand the meaning behind it and the sacrifice behind it.''
In addition to expressing support for the issues Kaepernick raised, Rapinoe made it clear that she was also making a statement about how unfairly Kaepernick was treated by the public and the media. Jones expressed similar sentiments: "[T]here's somebody [Bruce Miller] on the 49ers' team that commits [violent] act[s] …, accosts a 70-year-old man and his kid, and nobody's talking about that. But they talk about Kaepernick doing something that he believes in, as his right as an American citizen. People need to talk more about that guy than Kaepernick.
"He's not receiving the ridicule and public torture that Kaepernick is facing. Is Kaepernick hurting me? No. Is he hurting random people out there? No. I support his decision.
"At the end of the day, if you don't respect his freedoms, then why the hell are we Americans? It's supposed to be the Land of the Free, right?''
Freedom would not be so evident on any of the teams run by Tony LaRussa, the longtime baseball manager and Hall of Famer. LaRussa not only criticized Kaepernick's protest, but he said that he would not allow any player on his teams to sit during the anthem.
"I would tell [a player that wanted to sit out the anthem to] sit inside the clubhouse, La Russa said. 'You're not going to be out there representing our team and our organization by disrespecting the flag. No, sir, I would not allow it. ... If you want to make your statement, you make it in the clubhouse, but not out there. You're not going to show it that way publicly and disrespectfully.'
He'd allow the player to play, "but he wouldn't be out there sitting down," La Russa said. "He'd go in the locker room and make his protest."
Perhaps not surprising in today's political climate, Jones' comments drew more than its fair share of critics.
However, as San Francisco Chronicle sports columnist John Shea noted, "[B]aseball needs more Adam Joneses. More fabulous ballplayers, more fabulous teammates, more fabulous spokespersons for the sport, for the society in which they live and for any injustice they might witness or experience."