Trump Doesn't Want Any MLB Players Kneeling When He Throws First Pitch

President Donald Trump has again condemned players kneeling during the national anthem, claiming the gesture "would hurt a lot of people" in the U.S. and that Americans don't want to see protests while the flag is being raised.

Trump has been an outspoken critic of players taking a knee during the national anthem since former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick first knelt to protest against racial discrimination and police brutality in 2016.

Similar protests are expected across the major U.S. leagues this season, after several players and teams publicly supported the Black Lives Matter movement in the wake of George Floyd's killing while in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25.

On the day the MLB season began after a four-month delay due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, Trump said baseball's return was a major psychological boost to the country but insisted players should not be kneeling during the anthem.

"It's great that baseball is back, and other sports are back. I hope everyone's standing," Trump said during a Thursday night appearance on the Sean Hannity Show.

"I hope they're not going to be kneeling when the flag is raised. I don't like to see that. That would hurt a lot of people in our country. They don't want to see that with the NFL, or baseball, or basketball, or anything else. There are plenty of places you can protest. You don't have to protest on the raising of our flag."

Trump's appeal fell on deaf ears, with several players kneeling ahead of both games on Opening Day. Players took a knee during a minute of silence ahead of the national anthem before the New York Yankees played the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., in the season opener.

"To have everyone kneel at the same time, it was to give hope to any overall reason you want to do it," Yankees slugger Giancarlo Stanton told reporters after the game.

"For me, it's for the racial injustice and Black lives in general. And a lot of other things going on. We all have individual reasons to do so."

Earlier on Thursday, Yankees manager Aaron Boone and several players wore Black Lives Matter T-shirts during batting practice.

Similar scenes unfolded at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, where Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants players and coaches all took a knee during the minute of silence.

Several players and coaches—including the Dodgers' outfielder Mookie Betts and Giants manager Gabe Kapler—remained knelt during the anthem.

Kapler and a number of Giants players were criticized by Trump earlier in the week, when they took a knee ahead of their exhibition game against the the Oakland Athletics.

"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," the President tweeted.

Kapler, however, defended his players' right to protest.

"I see nothing more American than standing up for what you believe in," the Giants manager said earlier in the week. "I see nothing more patriotic than peaceful protests when things are frustrating and upsetting."

The issue of players kneeling could remain a major source of debate for the foreseeable future, particularly after Trump confirmed he had been invited to throw the first pitch ahead of the Yankees' home game against the Boston Red Sox on August 15.

The announcement came shortly before Dr. Anthony Fauci was given the honor of throwing the opening pitch in the season opener between the Yankees and the Nationals.

Trump, who has not thrown a ceremonial pitch since becoming President, was loudly booed when he attended Game 5 of the 2019 World Series in Washington in October last year.

New York Yankees, MLB
New York Yankees players kneel during a moment of silence prior to the game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on July 23 in Washington, DC. Rob Carr/Getty