MLB Defends Players Speaking Out: 'Supporting Equality Is Not Political'

The MLB has defended its decision to support players who spoke out on social issues, insisting that condemning racism was not the equivalent of making a political statement.

On Monday, in a tweet captioned "Clayton Kershaw is speaking up", the MLB official Twitter account shared an excerpt of an interview Kershaw gave The Athletic's Andy McCullough earlier this week in which the Los Angeles Dodgers star discussed his support for the Black Lives Matter movement.

"It was eye opening for me what was going—what has been going on," the quote shared by the MLB reads.

"Silence was probably part of the problem to begin with. ... We must unapologetically say that Black Lives Matter."

Clayton Kershaw is speaking up.

— MLB (@MLB) July 20, 2020

Predictably, the tweet went down like a lead balloon in some quarters, with several Twitter users urging the MLB to keep sports and politics as far away from each other as possible.

"Quit bringing all this political bs into sports," one user wrote in response to the MLB and Kershaw. "You are there to play a game not to be a politician, play the game."

The league's official Twitter account, however, stood its ground and defended its stance, while simultaneously praising players like Kershaw who had decided to speak out.

"Supporting our players and supporting equality is not political," the MLB's reply read.

Supporting our players and supporting equality is not political.

— MLB (@MLB) July 21, 2020

Over the last two days, several MLB players have taken a knee ahead of exhibition games. On Monday, San Francisco Giants manager Gabe Kapler, right fielder Jaylin Davis and first base coach Antoan Richardson knelt during the anthem at Oakland Coliseum ahead of the game against the Oakland Athletics.

Speaking after the game, Kapler said he wanted to use his platform to call out the "systemic racism" in America, adding his players would have the full support of the franchise, regardless of what they decided to do.

"I wanted them to know that I wasn't pleased with the way our country has handled police brutality and 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," he was quoted as saying by ESPN.

"So I told them that I wanted to use my platform to demonstrate my dissatisfaction with the way we've handled racism in our country."

On Tuesday night, Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto and infielder Alex Blandino knelt before the game against the Detroit Tigers, as did Reds outfielder Phillip Ervin and pitcher Amir Garrett.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles Angels reliever Keynan Middleton took a knee ahead of his team's game against the San Diego Padres.

Before the Reds quartet and Middleton protested, President Donald Trump had again denounced players kneeling during the anthem.

"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!," he tweeted.

Trump has staunchly opposed protests during the anthem, depicting them as unpatriotic and disrespectful to the flag, since former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick first knelt to protest against racial discrimination and police brutality in 2016.

The Black Lives Matter movement has returned to prominence since George Floyd was killed while in police custody on May 25. His death sparked worldwide protests, prompting several leagues and teams to publicly condemn racial discrimination and social inequality.

With the major U.S. leagues set to resume after the break enforced by the novel coronavirus pandemic, players kneeling during the anthem could be a common sight in the coming months.

A number of NFL players have pledged to emulate Kaepernick and take a knee when the season begins, while the NBA has given the players the opportunity to wear a social justice message on their jerseys when the season resumes at the end of the month.

In England, Premier League players have taken a knee before kick-off since the season resumed on June 17.

Newsweek has contacted the MLB for comment.

MLB, Cincinnati Reds
Cincinnati Reds players Phillip Ervin #6, Joey Votto #19, Amir Garrett #50 and Alex Blandino #0 kneel during the National Anthem prior to an exhibition game against the Detroit Tigers at Great American Ball Park on July 21 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Reds defeated the Tigers 9-7. Joe Robbins/Getty