The MLB season kicked off on Thursday with multiple games. The San Francisco Giants took part in Opening Day and created questions about whether players would continue to kneel during the national anthem as they did in 2020. Outfielder Mike Yastrzemski has confirmed that he will actually stand for the anthem during the 2021 season.
According to The Athletic's Andrew Baggarly, Yastrzemski explained that he knelt during the 2020 season in order to "spark conversation and awareness." He also wanted to let people know where he stands on racial justice. Yastrzemski, the grandson of Red Sox legend Carl Yastrzemski, said that he feels he has made that statement. He was one of several Giants players that knelt during the national anthem when MLB returned from a COVID-19 delay.
Yastrzemski released a statement in 2020 that explained why he was kneeling during the national anthem. He said at the time that he will always cover his heart and be grateful for the ultimate sacrifice that a man or woman can make to protect the country. He also said that he wanted to kneel to hold others accountable and wanted to be part of the change.
While Yastrzemski and multiple other players knelt during the national anthem, relief pitcher Sam Coonrod stood. He later explained that he "can't kneel before anything besides God." He also listed some personal concerns about the Black Lives Matter Movement and some of their previous conversations about "the nuclear family." This decision to stand sparked several critical comments from baseball fans, but the team's management explained that they support all of their players, regardless of whether they stand or kneel.
"We're proud of our players and staff for continuing to participate in the national conversation about racial injustice, said Farhan Zaidi, the Giants' president of baseball operations. "We support those who knelt to peacefully protest racial injustice and those who stood to express love of country. We do not see these as mutually exclusive sentiments and believe the freedom to express both is what our country is about."
Giants manager Gabe Kapler also addressed Coonrod standing during the national anthem. He said that he supports players in standing up for what they believe in. He also clarified that the team "wouldn't pass judgment on them for making any statement or standing up for what they believe in, or expressing themselves."