Yankees and Nationals kneel for racial justice demonstration, stand for anthem at opening day

Jack Baer
·3-min read

Players for the Washington Nationals and New York Yankees took part in a demonstration for racial unity before the first game of the MLB season.

Players for both teams all knelt along the foul lines holding a black ribbon, holding a moment of silence following a video featuring a narration from Morgan Freeman. Every player then stood as the national anthem was played.

The Yankees made the decision to kneel for 60 seconds as a team before the anthem during a Wednesday night team meeting, then gave the Nationals advance notice, according to James Wagner of the The New York Times.

A similar story played out in the day’s second game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants, except several players stayed kneeling for the anthem. The group included Dodgers star Mookie Betts, Giants manager Gabe Kaple and Giants veterans Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence.

MLB demonstration organized by Andrew McCutchen

The overall demonstration was reportedly organized by Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Andrew McCutchen, and will be seen at every opening day game this week per Wagner.

One of the most well-known Black players in baseball, McCutchen has been outspoken about racial justice since the killing of George Floyd. In addition to lobbying for action from MLB and its players, McCutchen has co-signed a statement calling for increased police accountability and the end of qualified immunity.

MLB had announced a number of additional shows of support for racial justice. Players wore uniform patches reading “Black Lives Matter” or “United for Change,” plus “Black Lives Matter” T-shirts at batting practice. Teams were also be allowed to stencil “Black Lives Matter” or “United for Change” on their pitching mounds for opening weekend.

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 23:  Members of the Washington Nationals kneel and hold a black ribbon to show their support for social justice and diversity and inclusion in baseball and life during the pre-game ceremony prior to the game between the New York Yankees and the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on Thursday, July 23, 2020 in Washington, District of Columbia. (Photo by Alex Trautwig/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
Nationals and Yankees player knelt while holding a black ribbon. (Photo by Alex Trautwig/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

All of those changes will be just one reason that opening day feels very, very different this year.

A surreal MLB opening day

Let’s roll through some of the reasons MLB’s 2020 opening day was different than previous iterations, in addition to the racial justice measures. For starters, it’s on July 23, more than three months later than usual. No fans are allowed into the games, though we still here recordings of them.

Active rosters have five extra spots compared to last year’s rules. NL teams have a DH. Relievers are required to face three batters when brought in. Extra innings begin with a runner on second.

We only just learned how many playoff teams there would be, but still don’t know where one team, the Toronto Blue Jays, will be playing their home games.

And, of course, the star hitter of one of the teams playing the first game tested positive for the coronavirus hours before first pitch, and that team and its opponent still played despite its players being possible exposed to the very reason all of this is happening.

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