Can Aaron Judge Unite America? Yankees Star's Silence on Politics Is Pleasing Conservatives

Aaron Judge has accomplished and endured many things in his rookie season with the New York Yankees: 52 home runs, an American League rookie record; a much-publicized slump; highlight reel grabs in the outfield and, on Monday night, a booming line-drive into the bleachers in the Bronx in his first-ever postseason appearance.

That’s saying nothing, either, of Judge’s intangibles: the easy smile, the quiet, confident manner and the aura that his size lends him. Whether or not he is named American League M.V.P., Judge has been the breakout star of baseball in 2017, a superheroic figure for a sport and a league in need of some youthful zip.

The crack of his bat when he smashes a ball in the middle of the plate is probably the loudest thing about Judge, a reserved character whose political views remain a source of mystery at a time when professional sport in the United States is humming with the spirit of political and social rebellion. The National Football League has found itself at the epicenter of the debate over the treatment of black Americans by police, after San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the National Anthem last October. President Donald Trump’s remarks at a rally in Alabama on September 23 that NFL owners should “fire” anyone choosing to kneel seemed to unite the league against him, as well as provoking arguments over the place of the NFL, and professional sport, within social justice movements.

Type “Aaron Judge and politics” into Google, though, and you get nothing. Judge, who was adopted as a child and who is listed by a June 2013 MLB article as African-American, has said nothing about the great issue currently meshing sport and politics together in the U.S.

Conservatives seem to have picked up on Judge’s apparent reluctance to speak out. A National Review article published on Tuesday with the headline, “A Judge Both Conservatives and Liberals Can Admire” listed his feats as usual before moving on to his politics, or lack of it. “In a time where sports has become politicized on both the left and the right, Aaron Judge has remained refreshingly above the fray,” the piece read. “Aaron Judge is the one judge in this country that both conservatives and liberals can unite behind, except of course for those who are Boston Red Sox fans.”

Judge’s silence may be less his own than MLB’s in general. In an interview with GQ magazine published on Tuesday, Gary Sheffield lamented the declining number of African-American players in professional baseball. “When I was a kid, you had all these guys, athletes like Jim Brown, Muhammad Ali, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, following Dr. Martin Luther King. I’ll only speak for baseball, but nowadays we don’t have an Ali,” Sheffield said. “We don’t even have the personalities of my generation and the one before me. Baseball has become so soldier-like, bow your head type stuff.” Only Oakland A’s catcher Bruce Maxwell has taken a knee so far of all the players in MLB.

Of course, there is no obligation for Judge to say what he thinks. His job is to crush baseballs, a job he continues to do extremely well. As his fame grows due to his on-field accomplishments, though, the man waking baseball up with his bat may come under increasing pressure to be woke off the field, too.

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