MLB was the star of the sports world on Thursday night as the league became the latest professional sport to get underway.
Players for both the New York Yankees and Washington Nationals knelt along the foul lines holding a black ribbon during a moment of silence and then stood for the national anthem. It was a demonstration for racial unity that played out similarly in the second game of the night between the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants.
The only player who didn’t kneel during either of the pregame ceremonies was Giants reliever Sam Coonrod.
Giants’ Coonrod says he only kneels before God
The teams held a long black ribbon while keeping socially distant and spreading out from foul pole to foul pole. After a moment of silence while they knelt, a video featuring narration by Morgan Freeman played. The demonstration will reportedly be at every opening day game this week, per James Wagner of the New York Times.
Coonrod, a second-year reliever, did not take part in the ceremony and instead stood behind first base at the edge of the infield dirt. He said afterward it was because he is a Christian and “I can't kneel before anything besides God.”
Via Alex Pavlovic for NBC Sports Bay Area:
“I meant no ill will by it. I don't think I'm better than anyone," Coonrod said after the game. “I’m a Christian. I just believe I can't kneel before anything besides God — Jesus Christ.
“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.”
Coonrod said he didn’t talk to anyone about his decision before the game because he only learned about it late in the day.
Coonrod speaks out against Black Lives Matter
Coonrod, 27, also said he doesn’t agree with the Black Lives Matter movement. He cited his faith and “a couple things I’ve read.”
Asked about the Black Lives Matter movement, Coonrod said, "I'm a Christian, and I just can't get on board with a couple things I've read about Black Lives Matter, how they lean toward Marxism, and they said some negative things about the nuclear family."— Maria I. Guardado (@mi_guardado) July 24, 2020
His comments are similar to that of Atlanta Dream co-owner Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who wrote the same things in a letter to WNBA leadership asking the league not to dedicate its season to the cause.
The Black Lives Matter movement was founded in 2013 by three community activists, one of whom said in a 2015 interview she and a co-founder are “trained Marxists.” The Black Lives Matter movement itself has grown larger than seven years ago and is about standing against racism.
Kapler: It’s an individual choice to stand or kneel
Giants manager Gabe Kapler said on a postgame Zoom call with reporters that he spoke with Coonrod after the game.
“The one thing that we said is we were going to let people express themselves. 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.”
Kapler was one of several Giants players and coaches to stay kneeling during the national anthem. Mookie Betts was the only Los Angeles Dodgers player to join them.
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