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Former Phillies manager Gabe Kapler kneels during anthem to protest 'systemtic racism'

MATT BREEN
The Philadelphia Inquirer (TNS)
San Francisco Giants' manager Gabe Kapler kneels during the national anthem prior to an exhibition baseball game against the Oakland Athletics, Monday, July 20, 2020, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Gabe Kapler knelt during the National Anthem on Monday night alongside several of his San Francisco Giants players as the former Phillies manager became the first major-league manager to protest police brutality against Black people during the anthem.

Kapler told his players earlier on Monday that he would support them if they chose to stand or kneel during the anthem, before he informed them of his own plans to kneel.

“I did that because I wanted them to know that I wasn’t pleased with the way our country has handled police brutality,” Kapler said during a postgame call with reporters. “I told them I wanted to amplify their voices and I wanted to amplify the voice of the Black community and marginalized communities, as well. I told them that I wanted to use my platform to demonstrate my dissatisfaction with the way we have handled racism in our country. I wanted to demonstrate my dissatisfaction with our clear systematic racism in our country and I wanted them to know that they got to make their own decision and we would respect and support those decisions.”

Kapler, who was hired by the Giants in October, grew up in a middle-class neighborhood outside of Los Angeles. His parents, Michael and Judy, were mindful of social issues, active in the 1960s civil rights movement, and taught their children to “celebrate diversity.” During his two years with the Phillies, Kapler decorated his office with framed portraits of Dr. Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Albert Einstein, and Mahatma Gandhi.

“The one thing that was completely unacceptable in our home was anything that took a group of people and put them in a box,” Kapler said in 2018 before his first season with the Phillies. “Anything racially charged, anything that related to gender. No stereotypes. My dad would be really upset if a joke like that was made. He really took it to heart.”

"He encouraged questioning authority," Kapler said. "Not falling into line because there was an authoritative figure. A police officer. A religious figure. A teacher. A political leader. Don't blindly follow because they tell you to do something. That was never a message in my home. It was the opposite. Ask questions and challenge."

Monday was San Francisco’s first exhibition game before they open the 60-game season on Thursday against the Dodgers. Giants players Jaylin Davis, Mike Yastrzemski, and Austin Slater, and first base coach Antoan Richardson also knelt during the anthem. Angels pitcher Keynan Middleton knelt during the anthem Monday in San Diego. No Phillies players have protested during the anthem this season, but manager Joe Girardi said he would support them if they did.

“I wanted them to feel safe in speaking up,” Kapler said. “So we had these kind of discussions for the last several days and we’ll continue to have them and make them the fabric of our clubhouse.”