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How Jaylin Davis reached ‘difficult’ decision to kneel in just a few hours

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Jaylin Davis didn’t know.

Gabe Kapler called him Monday in the hours before the pair, along with other Giants, would step into history and kneel for the national anthem. A decision that can take a lifetime to contemplate was boiled down to a few hours, the outfielder contemplating what to do. He told his manager he didn’t know yet, he would get back to him.

He knew his work family was on his side, and he checked with his real family. He contacted his mother, in North Carolina, and told her the situation that he did not know he would face that night; the team didn’t realize previously the national anthem would be played at the Coliseum for their first exhibition game.

“She told me to do whatever I felt in my heart was right,” Davis said on a Zoom call Tuesday. “And she was behind me.”

As was his manager, who knelt at the front of the Giants’ line. As were several teammates, fellow outfielders Mike Yastrzemski and Austin Slater taking a knee in the same region that Colin Kaepernick began the movement four years ago, on the same field Bruce Maxwell silently protested.

Davis watched George Floyd die under a police officer’s knee. He responded by writing a blog post for the Giants’ website in which he explained his experiences with racism, including being slurred during a high-school game.

“We wanted to make known that we weren’t going to let everything just be pushed aside just because baseball was back,” said Davis, who, with Kapler, informed the team in the clubhouse of his plans. “…Just opening the room for everybody to just say what they were feeling, so everybody was kind of on the same page.”

He knew Yastrzemski would be with him but had not directly talked to Slater about it. Davis, who debuted at the tail end of last year, was concerned because he doesn’t have the experience built up in a league that values it.

He didn’t want to be a young guy making unnecessary waves. He talked with Yastrzemski and Hunter Pence, who put him at ease in making a decision he said was difficult.

They “told me not to worry about being a first-year guy or anything,” said Davis, whose companions in Yaz and Slater are novice major leaguers, too. “If I felt comfortable doing it, then I should do it. And that kind of helped me — having Gabe and all them do it, too, that helped me be more comfortable about it.”

He does not know if he will continue kneeling. A night prior, Kapler said each game would mean another chance for a player to decide whether to stand or kneel, and Davis hinted there might be some surprises.

“I haven’t really thought about [whether to continue to kneel] yet,” Davis said. “[The Giants and Major League Baseball] kind of have some other things planned, too.”


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