Yankees’ Stanton, Hicks vow to keep kneeling during the national anthem as Trump Yankee Stadium visit looms
President Donald Trump plans to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at Yankee Stadium in August
Two New York Yankees players took a knee during the playing of the national anthem Saturday, two days after the entire team, along with their Washington Nationals opponents, kneeled symbolically before the pregame tradition.
Outfielders Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Hicks became the first Yankees to take a knee during “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and both plan to continue doing so in the future, Newsday reports, setting up a curious scene for when President Donald Trump visits Yankee Stadium in The Bronx borough of New York City next month.
“Because I’m a Black man living in America,” Hicks, a centerfielder, said when asked about his motive. “For me, I should be judged by my character, not by my skin tone. I felt like it was right to do. It’s kind of a hard thing to talk about, especially when it’s my life. All I want is to be treated the right way and that’s all I’m asking.”
All Yankees and National players and coaches took a knee before their matchup at the Thursday season opener at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. In front of an empty stadium in the midst of a coronavirus pandemic, participants kneeled for 20 seconds prior to the playing of a pre-recorded rendition of the national anthem. The Yankees were in town for a three-game series.
Yankees star Aaron Judge said Thursday’s unified showing was “the first step,” USA Today reports. His teammate Stanton pledged to keep the momentum going.
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“Just to show that we’re still in this fight. [Thursday] was a unified message; I just wanted to reiterate that it can’t be lost,” said Stanton when addressing his decision to kneel on Saturday. “I [want] to keep this movement moving forward. I thought it was the right thing to do.”
Trump, a New York native, announced last week that he had accepted an invitation to throw out the first pitch when the Yankees host rival Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium on Aug. 15.
“Looking forward to live sports, but any time I witness a player kneeling during the National Anthem, a sign of great disrespect for our Country and our Flag, the game is over for me!’ Trump said in a tweet.
Stanton said he has doubts that Trump will throw out the ceremonial first pitch.
“I’m not positive that’s a sure thing that’s going to happen,” he said. “We’ll get there when we get there. That’s in August. It’s not something I have to worry about now.”
In 2017, Vice President Mike Pence staged a walkout before an NFL game in his home state between the Indianapolis Colts and San Francisco 49ers after several 49ers kneeled in protest during the performance of the anthem.
As of now, Yankees manager Aaron Boone signaled that Stanton and Hicks both have his support. The players informed Boone and other teammates that they planned to take a knee at Saturday’s game.
“I’m totally supportive of their decision to do that. I know it was heavy on their heart,” Boone stated. “I support their right to do that, and that it was very well thought out and something important to them.”
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Although Stanton and Hicks were the only two kneel, they do not want to cause division among their teammates.
“I’m not going to force my teammates to do anything they don’t feel comfortable doing,” said Hicks, who is in his fifth season as a Yankee. “It was our choice, and if somebody else joins, that’s awesome.”
Yankee infielder DJ LeMahieu didn’t kneel with his teammates, but stood next to them with his head down and patted them on the back at the end of the playing of the anthem Saturday.
“Didn’t want them to be there by themselves doing that. I wanted them to know I have their back and support them,” LeMahieu said. “It was my way of showing I was with them. They’re not doing it just to do it.”
Hicks appreciated LeMahieu’s supportive gesture.
“All we want is to be treated as equals. That just shows that we have a great team and great people around us,” Hicks stated. “They may not understand, but they’ve got our backs and that’s all we ask for.”
The move to kneel during the national anthem was adopted by NFL free agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who took a knee during “The Star-Spangled Banner” in the 2016 season in protest against police brutality and racial injustice.
Kaepernick’s weekly protest invited scorn from then-presidential candidate Trump, who later as the president called on the NFL to fire players that kneel and referred to Kaepernick in an expletive.
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