San Francisco Giants reliever Sam Coonrod defended his refusal to kneel with teammates during a Black Lives Matter demonstration on Thursday, likening the social justice movement to Marxism and saying that as a Christian, he can only kneel before God.
‘I’m a Christian, like I said, and I just can’t get on board with a couple of things that I have read about Black Lives Matter,’ Coonrod said, as quoted by NBC Sports. ‘How they lean toward Marxism and they’ve said some negative things about the nuclear family. I just can’t get on board with that.’
Major League Baseball opened its pandemic-delayed 2020 season on Thursday with a pair of games, before which players held a moment of unity in response to the nationwide protests against racist police brutality. Before the national anthem was played at Dodger Stadium, players from both teams held a black ribbon that wound along the baselines in a show of unity and support for the BLM movement. All the players appeared to kneel at one point, besides Coonrod, who remained standing.
‘I meant no ill will by it,’ Coonrod said of his decision. ‘I don’t think I’m better than anyone… I’m a Christian, so I just believe that I can’t kneel before anything besides God.
‘I’m not mad at someone who decided to kneel,’ he continued. ‘I just don’t think it’s too much to ask that I just get the same respect.
‘I chose not to kneel. I feel that if I did kneel, I would be being a hypocrite. I didn’t want to be a hypocrite. Like I said, I didn’t mean any ill will toward anyone.’
A similar scene occurred at Thursday’s season opener in Washington, where Nationals and New York Yankees players all held the black ribbon together before kneeling and then rising for the national anthem.
Likewise, the majority players and coaches stood for the national anthem in Los Angeles with a few notable exceptions: Giants manager Gabe Kapler, and Mookie Betts, the latter of whom was making his debut with the Dodgers.
Betts, who went 1 for 5 with two strikeouts a day after signing a $365 million contract extension, described his reasoning afterwards.
‘It was just unity,’ Betts said. ‘We’re all on the same team, we’re all here for change, even the Giants.’
Betts’ perspective on kneeling has changed since 2016, when he said he wouldn’t take such action. His father, Willie, served in Vietnam with the U.S. Air Force.
‘I wasn’t educated, and that’s my fault,’ Betts said. ‘I know my dad served and I’ll never disrespect the flag, but there also has to be change. Kneeling is for the injustice.’
Afterwards Kapler stressed that his players are free to kneel or stand for the anthem.
‘The one thing that we said is we were going to let people express themselves,’ said Kapler, the first MLB manager to kneel in protest of racism during the national anthem. ‘We were going to give them the choice on whether they were going to stand, kneel or do something else. That was a personal decision for Sam.’