Release the Kraken
Baseball's back, basketball's back, hockey's back (Go Krakens), and football is not to far behind.
I fell in love with the sport that has been deemed "America's Past time" when I was 6 years old. The year was 2001. My birthday was the day before, something felt different. I didn't fully understand what was going on, but a little over a week ago my mom had picked me up early from school. My dad was already home which was unusual. I didn't have the words for it at the time, but something felt...off. And it continued to feel off. There was this aura of trepidation that filled the air everywhere we went. Everyone was on edge; fearful. It felt as though this was how it was going to be forever. That was until September 21, 2001. Ten days following the attacks on the World Trade Center, The New York Mets would host the Atlanta Braves at Shea Stadium in what would be the first sporting event in New York City. The fear was still very real, the heartache was still fresh, but on that night I witnessed the magic of sports that brings people together. Two-run homer by Mets legend, Mike Piazza to give the Amazin's the lead in the 8th inning (eventually winning the game). Cheeers of "U-S-A" rang throughout the stadium and hugs were shared in jubilation. The fear, the anger, the sorrow turned joy, cheers, and tears of joy; even if it was just for a moment.
For the majority of my life, sports have been my safe place. A safe place to learn. A safe place to fail. A distraction from whatever frustrations I was feeling from home and school. Adolescence was spent exploring how lessons on the field extended to being an upstanding citizen of the field. Teamwork. Effective communication. What it takes to be a leader.
I like many anxiously awaited the return of sports. A comfort. A constant. A distraction. Not only did Major League Baseball (MLB) take the longest to iron out a deal between its owners and players; the MLB had stayed relatively silent on the Black Lives Matter compared to other sports. You got the NBA and WNBA meetings of how they can ensure their playing doesn't derail the momentum of the movement (activism is nothing new for the WNBA just look at UCONN alum Maya Moore and Renee Montgomery #BleedBlue). NASCAR banned Confederate flags at ALL racing events. The National Football League's commissioner, Roger Goddell, on video not only condemning racism, but verbally stating "we were wrong for not listening to players earlier" (whether it's actually genuine is up for the viewer seeing as Colin Kaepernick is still being blackballed). With soccer (futbol) being the first sport back to play, teams of the Premier League and Major League Soccer changed the players' names on their kits to read "Black Lives Matter" and knelt during the anthem respectively.
I was curious what the MLB would do. Would players kneel? Would there be signage? A patch on their jerseys for Breonna Taylor? Would they just ignore it completely and "Play Ball"?
Well, July 23rd I got my answer. Opening Day, first game of the season, the New York Yankees hosted the Washington Nationals. Both teams warmed up business as usual wearing Black t-shirts reading 'Black Lives Matter' and got ready to take their places along the foul lines. As the moment for the National Anthem approached, both teams joined in holding one cloth and knelt 20 seconds before the Star Spangled Banner. Not during, BEFORE. (People were pissed).
Now, move forward to Opening Day at Citifield. The New York Mets hosted the Atlanta Braves. Similarly, teams warmed up wearing Black t-shirts reading 'Black Lives Matter' as well as unifying quotes. Neither team knelt before, during or after the anthem. Rather, both teams stood in solidarity holding a black cloth while viewing compilation of current and retired Black players proclaiming "Black Lives Matter" and calling for the acknowledgement of the pain of the Black community. Andrew McCutchen speech (narrated by Morgan Freeman) then played through the speakers.
"Today, and every day, we come together as brothers. As equals, all with the same goal - to level the playing field. To change the injustices. Equality is not just a word. It’s our right! Today we stand as men from 25 nations on 6 continents. Today, we are one."
Am I upset that the New York Mets did not kneel during the National Anthem?
No. In fact, I don’t think it should be required to kneel as much I don’t think you should be required to stand.
I don't want kneeling to turn into a Black Square. It is not enough. It is one step in the journey of many, MANY miles. I want you to do the work.
The National Anthem is the most if not only political part of sporting events (excluding the Olympics). Think about it: are you thinking about America at any other portion of the game. Chances are the answer is “no”. Greater chances are you are watching to distract yourself from the happenings of your world (civil unrest of racial injustice, impending pandemic doom of an invisible virus or not).
Here’s my 'Hot Take', what if maybe we let the Star Spangled Banner be the political statement that it is and reflect in our own ways. For the one minute and 40 seconds, take the time to reflect on what you’ve done for this country to make it a better place for ALL its citizens. How have you made this country a better place for fellow citizens who battle day in and out under the oppressive systems this country was built upon?
The Boston Red Sox, are an example of how there are hateful people are in every fanbase. It’s not all of Red Sox Nation. While choosing any fanbase over the 7LineArmy is a poor choice imo, Some of my closest friends are diehard Sox fan. Unfortunately, the hateful voices are committed to be louder.
I will say this. Throughout social media, for every “All Lives Matter”, for every “Keep politics out of (insert sport here)” for every “As long as they don’t kneel” there was upward of a 200 replies to the comments in support of Black Lives Matter. Replies condemning the disproportionate mistreatment of Black people across multiple disciplines and occupations (Education, Business, Healthcare…just to name a few). And I would say 90% of those replies…were from white people. Sports can be your escape, but don't unpack and live there. We still got work to do.
Change is coming. There is still time to be on the right side of history.
Peace. Love and in the words of our Polar Bear and Savior, Pete Alonso: