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Two Yankees players continue kneeling during American anthem, vow to do so the entire season

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A pair of New York Yankees players continued kneeling during the playing of the National Anthem ahead of a ball game Saturday against the Washington Nationals after pledging to continue the act of defiance for the remainder of the season.

On Thursday, as the MLB season opened, all players on teams around the league took a knee in protest of alleged systemic injustice against black people.

But on Saturday, Aaron Hicks and Giancarlo Stanton stayed down during the playing of the anthem again, becoming the first two Yankees players “to make this controversial statement,” the New York Post reported.

As the anthem began, Hicks and Stanton stood in fair territory in left field, then went down on their left knees, the paper noted.  DJ LeMahieu joined them, but stood next to Stanton rather than take a knee.

No Nationals players knelt.

After the Yankees’ 9-2 loss to the Nationals, both players said they will be continuing to kneel for the remainder of the season, which was truncated by the coronavirus pandemic. Many stadiums are either empty or lightly attended.

“I’m a black man living in America,’’ Hicks said in explaining why he knelt.

“I feel like, for me, I should be judged by my character and not by my skin tone. Growing up, that’s kind of what’s happened. I felt like it was right to do. It’s my life,” he continued.

Hicks said that he will continue the act “just to show we’re still in this fight” and to “take the heat” off his teammates.

Both players took part in a Players Alliance public service announcement supportive of the Marxist-oriented Black Lives Matter movement. For his part, Stanton has been exceedingly vocal about alleged ‘systemic racism’ during the pandemic, before and after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May.

“I’m totally supportive of their decision to do that,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone told the Post, regarding his players’ kneeling.

“I know it was heavy on their heart. I support their right to do that. And It was very well thought out and important to them,” he added.

LeMahieu noted that he wanted to show support for his teammates after Stanton led a team meeting prior to opening day and told Yankees players about his plans to remain kneeling the rest of the season.

“I didn’t want them to be out there by themselves doing that,’’ LeMahieu said. “I wanted them to know I had their back.”

Hicks told the Post that he was appreciative of his teammate’s gesture of support.

“That shows we have a great team and great people around us,’’ Hicks said. “They may not understand, but they’ve got our back and that’s all we ask for.”

Meanwhile, WNBA players from the New York Liberty and Seattle Storm all left the court during the playing of the National Anthem ahead of a game Saturday, “as part of the social justice initiative,” ESPN said in a tweet with the accompanying video.

https://twitter.com/espn/status/1287055952680714241

The Liberty-Storm game kicked off a coronavirus-shortened WNBA season as well that will be played, for now, sans fans in the seats.

“Also before Saturday’s season opener, one representative from each team — Breanna Stewart of the Storm and New York’s Layshia Clarendon, both members of the newly formed WNBA Social Justice Council  — remained on the floor to speak about Breonna Taylor, the 26-year-old woman killed by plainclothes police officers in her Louisville, Kentucky, apartment four months ago,” USA Today reported.

The WNBA announced earlier that the entire 2020 season will be dedicated to her memory.

It’s unclear how much impact the kneeling and other acts of disrespect during the playing of the anthem will affect the fan bases of the various professional sports leagues, all of which are either planning or are permitting players to protest ahead of and during games.

Jon Dougherty

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