Taking a stand against inequality shouldn’t be controversial
Every player and staff member from four MLB teams took a knee before last night’s opening slate of games to make a statement about inequality. Every single one of them—except Giants reliever Sam Coonrod.
The moment was not a protest. It was a carefully constructed display coordinated and approved by Major League Baseball. A recorded, uncontroversial message from Morgan Freeman played over the stadium PA system as the players kneeled and held a black ribbon. (Phillies outfielder Andrew McCutchen came up with the idea.)
It was as provocative as you would expect a corporately sanctioned statement to be. The Freeman narration did not mention “police” or even the phrase “Black lives matter.” The clip amounted to a perfectly reasonable call for equality.
Coonrod was the only player on the Yankees, Nationals, Dodgers or Giants to stay on his feet while everyone else knelt. He stood out like a sore thumb.
Asked to explain himself after the game, Coonrod cited his religion.
“I meant no ill will by it,” Coonrod told reporters. “I don't think I’m better than anybody. I’m just a Christian. I believe I can’t kneel before anything but God, Jesus Christ. I chose not to kneel. I feel if I did kneel I'd be a hypocrite. I don’t want to be a hypocrite.”
If a central tenet of Christianity is treating others with love and respect, it's not clear how not joining a call for just that would be hypocritical. But Coonrod also said he took issue with the substance of the statement.
“I can't get on board on a couple of things I’ve read about Black Lives Matter, how they lean toward Marxism and said some negative things about the nuclear family,” he said.
Yes, the founders of the organization Black Lives Matter have referred to themselves as “trained Marxists,” a quote that has spread like wildfire by some attempting to discredit them. But again, the phrase "Black lives matter" wasn't event part of the Freeman clip.
Coonrod seems to be missing the point of the ribbon display: It was meant to be an anodyne alternative to actual protest. Even if you believe that kneeling during the national anthem is somehow disrespectful to the military, kneeling during a Morgan Freeman speech gives you another way to show support with risking blowback. And in fact, last night only a handful of Dodgers and Giants (Mookie Betts, San Francisco manager Gabe Kapler and Pablo Sandoval among them) were brave enough to kneel during the anthem.
Luckily for Coonrod, it doesn’t sound like his decision will drive a wedge in the clubhouse.
“The one thing we said is, we‘re going to let people express themselves,” Kapler told reporters. “We‘re going to give them the choice whether they stand, kneel or do something else. That was a personal decision for Sam.”
Kraken it is
It sounded like a joke when it first surfaced as a possibility, but the NHL’s newest franchise is actually going to be called the Seattle Kraken.
I ranked Kraken last when the ownership group trademarked 13 possible team names in 2018 and I’m still not wild about it as a name. But at least the logos and jerseys are really cool. I especially like how the anchor logo looks like the Space Needle.
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