San Francisco Giants head coach Gabe Kapler Monday night became the first MLB manager to kneel during the national anthem. Several players from both the Giants organization and their opponents, the Oakland Athletics, joined the first-year skipper to use their platform to protest racial inequality.
Prior to the Giants exhibition game against the Athletics, Kapler informed his players that he would use his platform to fight against racism. He said he would support his players no matter what they decided to do during the anthem.
“I wanted them to know that I wasn’t pleased with the way our country has handled police brutality. I told them I wanted to amplify the voices 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… clear systemic racism in our country,” Kapler said postgame.
“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 field Jaylin Davis and first base coach Antoan Richardson, both of whom are Black, also took a knee during the anthem. As Davis held his hand over his heart and Richardson clasps his hands in front of him, teammate Brandon Crawford stood between them with a hand on each of their shoulders.
“I’m very grateful to be a part of an organization that supports players for expressing what they believe in and I’m proud to be a Giant,” Davis wrote on Twitter.
Kapler said much discussion went into each player’s choice whether to stand or kneel. He also said he would make such important conversations 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. 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.”
Giants president Farhan Zaidi told reporters after the game that he was “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. The freedom to express both is what our country is about.”
Kapler didn’t speak specifically about how often his team plans on kneeling during the abbreviated 2020 season. He did say that each night is “another opportunity” to make a statement.
“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,” the Giants skipper said.
It was on that same field in 2017 that former Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell became the first MLB player to kneel during the national anthem.
While on a hike Monday, Maxwell received a Twitter post from his agent that showed the Giants’ moment of solidarity. He said he had a difficult time holding back his tears.
“There was a lot of joy in my heart, honestly. There was a lot of relief. And there was a lot of emotion. Just seeing the spreading of awareness, that people are seeing the injustice of humanity in our country, and for people now standing up to it, that was so joyous for me,” Maxwell said.
“If I was there, I would give Kapler a big hug, shake his hand, and tell him I’m honored to be next to him. That was a big step. For somebody in that position to put his title aside, to make himself vulnerable in that situation and stand for what is right, is big for humanity.”
Kapler being the first manager to kneel during the national anthem wasn’t the only “first” for the Giants Monday night. Alyssa Nakken became the first female to coach in an on-field capacity in a major league game. She replaced first base coach Antoan Richardson late in the game against the Oakland Athletics.
Nakken joined the Giants’ organization in January, becoming the first woman to hold a full-time coaching position in the MLB. She has been with the club since 2014, when she was brought on as an intern in the baseball operations department.
Nakken was a three-time all-conference softball player and four-time Academic All-American at Sacramento State from 2009 to 2012. She would go on to earn a master’s degree in Sports Management from the University of San Francisco in 2015.