Donald Trump still plans to throw out the first pitch at a Yankees game next month even though the New York baseball players knelt at Thursday’s Opening Day game in Washington D.C.
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany told DailyMail.com during a press briefing Friday that the president is ‘excited’ to participate in the tradition and has not changed his plans to do so.
‘I’ll leave it to him as to address the Yankees game, he’s very excited to throw out the first pitch,’ McEnany said.
Trump announced Thursday night during a briefing at the White House that he will throw the first pitch at a Yankees game in New York August 15 – at the same time baseball held its months-delayed Opening Day right down the street at Nationals Stadium.
McEnany said she learned about his decision to participate at the same time he made the revelation to the press.
Both Yankees and Nationals players knelt during the Opening Day ceremonies, but stood for the National Anthem.
Athletes kneeling at sports events in recent years has been made a symbol of protest and a sign that the individuals taking a knee actually standing in solidarity with the black community.
The president is vehemently against kneeling in protest while the American flag is presented or the Star Spangled Banner being played, and has said he would not support sports if players continued to take a knee.
‘Looking forward to live sports, but any time I witness a player kneeling during the National Anthem, a sign of great disrespect for our Country and our Flag, the game is over for me!’ Trump tweeted July 21 – as Major League Baseball prepared to commence its season about four months late.
But McEnany says this has not deterred him from wanting to throw the first pitch.
The Yankees and Nationals players knelt in unison ahead of the first game of the season.
The athletes took a knee during the opening day ceremony Thursday night, which featured several references to the ongoing civil rights movement that was triggered by the Memorial Day ‘murder’ of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Also during the ceremony, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top immunologist and White House Coronavirus Task Force member, threw out the first pitch – upstaging the president’s intentions to do the same next month.
Fauci has not been invited back to participate in the daily briefings since they were rebooted on Monday after reports emerged of his clashes with the president – so he instead spent his evening at Nationals Stadium.
The 79-year-old doctor is an avid baseball fan – and while he supported the Yankees during his youth in Brooklyn, he is a now a long-time Nationals fan and often dons a face mask with their logo.
Trump also marked baseball’s opening day by playing catch with sports legend Mariano Rivera in the grounds of the White House.
The 2020 Major League Baseball season finally opened in Washington on Thursday night, after being put on hold when states went into lockdown to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Players from the Yankees and Nationals wore T-shirts saying Black Lives Matter during batting practice, and the letters ‘BLM’ were stenciled into the back of the mound at the center of the diamond.
In a poignant reference to the racial reckoning happening in the US, players and other members of both teams held a long black ribbon while standing spaced out along the two foul lines.
After they placed the ribbon on the ground, all the players then got on their knees.
Trump has not publicly commented on the players taking a knee – although the players did then all rise for a taped performance of the national anthem.
Over at the White House, the president also marked the opening day by tossing baseballs with Hall of Fame pitcher Rivera.
The retired New York Yankees relief pitcher made a surprise appearance at Trump’s late afternoon coronavirus briefing, when the president introduced him saying the two of them would be heading outside to see ‘some beautiful young Little Leaguers outside with a great future ahead of them’.
‘They’re already practicing on the front lawn of the White House,’ Trump said.
Rivera and Trump then joined a group of about 15 young players who were playing catch on the South Lawn.
The president and former player joined in with the sport, while Trump heaped praise on his playing buddy.
‘There was nobody like Mariano,’ Trump said.
Rivera, a Trump supporter, was awarded the presidential medal of freedom last year.
Trump said the return of sports was ‘a tremendous thing psychologically for our country’ in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
He praised Major League Baseball for getting ‘back to normal’ by resuming games.
‘I think Major League Baseball is setting an example by playing to empty stadiums. And so are other sports,’ Trump said, pointing to football and golf.
‘We want to get back to normal. The key is to get back to normal.’
When asked by a reporter if he was worried about the players coming back too quickly after Washington Nationals left fielder Juan Soto tested positive for COVID-19, Trump said: ‘They’re going to be able to take care of it.’
Trump also announced he will throw out the first pitch when the New York Yankees host the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium on August 15.
‘Randy Levine is a great friend of mine from the Yankees,’ Trump said of the team’s president.
‘He asked me to throw out the first pitch … It’s going to be interesting.’
It is unlikely spectators will be in attendance at the game as the sport gets underway without crowds.