Washington, DC —With no fans in the ballparks, as baseball takes necessary precautions and protocols to protect its players and team personnel from exposure to Covid-19, the two teams took a knee prior to Thursday night’s game as part of their MLB opening day ceremony.
MLB introduced new rules and protocols to help to speed up the game for the season. Opening Day, it was Gerrit Cole against Nationals ace Max Scherzer in front of empty seats at Nationals Park in Washington.
Before the game, the Yankees and the Nationals players clutched a black cloth that winded from the Nationals’ first base line around to New York third-base line.
Then, before a pre-recorded rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner, every player and coach out for pregame introductions took a knee on the turf, for about 20 seconds.
But before you get warm and fuzzy about MLB for caring about Black lives, it’s important to mention that while both teams did take a knee, it wasn’t during the national anthem. It was prior to it even being played.
NY slugger Giancarlo Stanton, who’s Black, believes that their message was clear and precise.
“To have everyone kneel at the same time, it was to give hope to any overall reason you want to do it,” he said after the Bombers’ 4-1 victory. “For me, it’s for the racial injustice and Black lives in general. And a lot of other things going on. We all have individual reasons to do so. I believe with everything we did beforehand, wearing the Black Lives Matter T-shirts, the patches and the unity ceremony before, that’s what was decided.
Cole, who pitched five innings in a rain-shortened victory in his debut and rewarded Steinbrenner for authorizing a nine-year deal for $324 million to sign with the Yankees.
“I was so excited. I was walking through the clubhouse before and I saw a bunch of guys in Yankees uniforms and it hit me that this is for real,’’ said Cole, who claimed to be a little nervous before dominating the defending World Series champs.
Nationals closer Sean Doolittle said the concept of teams clutching a black ribbon – the Dodgers and Giants did the same hours later – was discussed among the MLB Players’ Association and the league. Both team kneeling, he said, was a venture discussed among Washington and New York in recent days; the Nationals held a pregame meeting Thursday to smooth out the final details of the pre-game plan.
“It was emotional. I thought it was powerful,” says Doolittle. “It was important for us and for the Bombers that everybody bought in. Holding the ribbon and kneeling. To show support for athletes that have done it in other sports, and so far in baseball.
”To show support for the movement about Black Lives Matter and ending police brutality, racism, and social injustice.”
NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick sacrificed his career for his stance for social injustice, racial equality, and police brutality.
Is baseball ready to take up the cause? At least MLB is trying to develop a better understanding and communication among its Black players going forward.
“I think this is definitely the first step,” says Judge. “I know Bruce Maxwell took a knee during the anthem, and we just didn’t have the support yet. I think now, having these conversations with these teammates, having these uncomfortable talks, is how you start this. Once you have those talks as a team, then you can take it to the league.
“I don’t have all the answers now, but I like where we’re going with this.”