Ahead of making his debut for the Los Angeles Dodgers—and a day after signing the second-largest contract in MLB history—Mookie Betts made a grand statement by kneeling during the national anthem.
Several San Francisco Giants representatives—including Pablo Sandoval, Mike Yastrzemski, Hunter Pence and manager Gabe Kapler—also knelt during the anthem.
The demonstration followed the previous game between the Yankees and Nationals, in which the complete rosters of both teams kneeled in a pregame "moment of unity" ahead of Thursday's Opening Day performance of the national anthem.
As first reported earlier Thursday by The Athletic's Lindsey Adler, players lined up on the first and third baselines and held a lengthy piece of black fabric that traced around the diamond.
Per Adler, the display, which is described as “player-led,” is said to have been directed by Phillies outfielder Andrew McCutchen.
“This moment is important for all MLB players to unite and show support for one another as we begin the 2020 baseball season. Our league makeup is unique, with nearly one third of players being foreign-born,” McCutchen said in a statement to The Athletic. “No matter where we are from we are all facing battles for social justice and equality, the concerns of keeping our families and communities safe during times of a global pandemic, and facing the same challenges with the return to baseball. This is our time to stand together as one before we take the field as competitors.”
In the lead-up to the 2020 MLB season, a number of players across MLB have kneeled during the national anthem, including members of the Giants and Reds.
Kapler was among those with the San Francisco organization who kneeled and he explained in a statement, in part, that "I told them that I wanted to use my platform to demonstrate my dissatisfaction with the way we've handled racism in our country. I wanted to demonstrate my dissatisfaction with our clear systemic racism in our country."
Just hours before the start of the 2020 regular season, the Major League Baseball Players Association reportedly approved an agreement with MLB to expand its postseason this year to 16 teams.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, threw out the ceremonial first pitch at Nationals Park to open Thursday's contest.