San Francisco Giants manager Gabe Kapler published an essay Friday criticizing the state of the country following the Robb Elementary shooting in Uvalde, Texas, which killed 19 students and two teachers, and said he did regret not taking a knee during the audition playing the national anthem in protest.
The Giants played the New York Mets Tuesday night at Oracle Park in San Francisco, just hours after the shooting happened. As in much of the sporting world, minutes of silence were held across the country before the games began. Kapler said that when the anthem was played, he considered taking a knee but decided against it.
“My brain said get on one knee; my body wasn’t listening,” Kapler wrote in the essay. “I wanted to go back inside, but instead I froze. I felt like a coward. I didn’t want to draw attention to myself. I didn’t want to take anything away from the victims or their families. a rock band, the lights, the pageantry. I knew thousands of people used this game to escape the horrors of the world just for a while. I knew thousands more would not understand the gesture and would take it as an insult to the military, to veterans, to themselves.
“But I don’t agree with the state of this country. I wish I hadn’t let my discomfort compromise my integrity. I wish I could have demonstrated what I learned from my father, that if you are unhappy with your country, you let it be known through protest. The home of the brave should encourage this.
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Later Friday, Kapler told reporters in Cincinnati that he won’t be coming onto the field for the national anthem “until I feel better about the direction of our country.”
In 2020, Kapler and several Giants players and staff became the first members of a Major League Baseball team to kneel during the national anthem since Bruce Maxwell in September 2017. Kapler was credited with being the first head coach in one of North America’s four major sports leagues to protest racial injustice in this way.
Kapler’s comments echo those of other athletes, including Warriors coach Steve Kerr, who delivered an impassioned speech calling for gun control reform before Golden State played Tuesday’s Western Conference Finals against the Dallas Mavericks.
In his essay, Kapler added his voice to the chorus, lamenting the influence lobbyists have on politicians and their legislative decisions.
“We elect our politicians to represent our interests,” wrote Kapler. “Immediately after this shooting, we were told we needed locked doors and armed teachers. We have been given thoughts and prayers. We’ve been told it could have been worse and all we need is love.
“But we have not been given courage and we are not free. Local police handcuffed a mother as she begged her to go inside and rescue her children. They blocked parents trying to organize an attack to stop the shooters, including a father who learned his daughter was murdered while arguing with police. We are not free when politicians decide that the lobbyists and the gun industry are more important than our children’s freedom to go to school without bulletproof backpacks and active gun drills.”
The shooting was the deadliest at a US elementary school since the 2012 attack on Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. The 18-year-old gunman, who wore body armor and fired hundreds of shots, killed 19 children and two adults, Lt. Chris Olivarez of the Texas Department of Public Safety.
After the shooting, many politicians avoided discussing gun control issues. US Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas, walked away from an interview Wednesday after a reporter asked him why some mass shootings “only happen in America.” Many other lawmakers have responded with calls for prayer.
“Before our games, I often notice that the promise of our national anthem is not kept,” wrote Kapler. “We stand in honor of a country where we elect representatives to serve us to carefully consider and enact laws that protect the interests of all people in this country and to guide this country toward the vision of the ‘City Shining On to ‘advance the hill’.’ But instead we mindlessly combine our moment of silence and mourning with equally mindless celebration for a country that refuses to embrace the concept of controlling the sale of arms used almost exclusively for the mass slaughter of people.
“We have our moment (over and over again), and then we move on without demanding real change from the people we empower to make those changes. We stand up, we bow our heads, and the people in power take a break and celebrate their own patriotism at every turn.”
Kapler, 46, is in his third season as a coach at San Francisco and was a former player for six different teams from 1998-2010.
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