Silverman: Baseball’s silence in protest not simply scorn – Boston Herald
CINCINNATI — Nobody on the Red Sox kneeled or sat during the national anthem yesterday.
Nobody locked arms, either.
If this news surprises or disappoints you, consider baseball players usually trail the pro sports pack when it comes to being outwardly vocal on divisive social issues. It’s as if Jackie Robinson in the ’40s and Curt Flood in the ’70s was enough outside of maintaining their formidable players’ union.
For others, business as usual from the Red Sox was a welcome relief from Colin Kaepernick and his ilk. The President of the United States falls into that group, considering how his remarks and tweets led to never-before-seen numbers taking a knee, sitting on the bench or locking arms yesterday.
Excluding the A’s Bruce Maxwell Saturday night and yesterday, all the sticking to custom and hats over hearts during the anthem made it appear the storm somehow skipped baseball. But as Red Sox manager John Farrell forcefully pointed out, looks can be deceiving. Farrell endorsed, unequivocally, the right of any of his players to express themselves.
“We would have their back as an organization if that’s the expression they chose to do,” he said. “It’s their constitutional right.”
He’s right, though you’re welcome to disagree. (See First Amendment for details.) His instinct that his team would not exercise that constitutional right also proved right. Just because players were relatively silent, though, didn’t mean they’re not listening or that they don’t care.
Especially when their professional sports brethren come under attack.
“I think there’s a tremendous amount (of kinship),” said Farrell. “Regardless of the background in which you come from, we live in the public eye. There’s opportunity for expression to be had, and yet I think there’s a tremendous amount of responsibility that every athlete has and that’s something that can’t be denied. There’s an inherent responsibility to wearing a major sports uniform.
“That doesn’t mean you can’t have personal expression. But the model and example that you set as an individual, that goes a long way.”
These are not normal times. The President of the United States sees all sides when there’s violence at a white supremacist rally, but he picks a fight with the NFL and the NBA, with African-American athletes like Kaepernick and Stephen Curry receiving the force of his fury in a transparent play to his base.
The president sends out a message of division and, in a culturally, racially and politically diverse clubhouse like what the Red Sox have, it does not require a stretch of the imagination to envision it does not quite resonate.
“We’re at a point and time in history, and I’m not a historian by any means, but there’s a lot of division that is currently in the forefront of a lot of people’s minds and the more united we can become, that is a goal of all of us,” Farrell said.
Baseball’s long season, its long slog to the majors from the minors, perhaps help leads to the game’s don’t-rock-the-boat tendencies. Its demographics are complicated, with African-American participation declining for decades while representation from Latin America rises.
“Baseball, more than any other sport, is clearly a melting pot and I say that with all due respect,” Farrell said. “We have players from all different walks; there (are) six countries represented in the clubhouse. There’s socioeconomic backgrounds that are so diverse and yet we come together because of one thing and that is a great game.
“We respect their backgrounds, we respect their opinions,” he said. “I think it makes us a better team and a more wholesome team because of the differences that we have.”
What Adam Jones heard at Fenway Park and Red Sox owner John Henry’s decision to rename Yawkey Way are reminders — necessary to some — that baseball is far from immune from our nation’s most vexing issues.
It may not come in the form of taking a knee, but I’m optimistic that eventually, baseball and its players will take a stand.
They may not speak with one voice, and certainly not everyone will agree with them. But eventually, even hopefully, staying silent for those who want to speak out will no longer be a viable option.