LOS ANGELES — The most controversial figure of Thursday’s season opener did not appear in the game, making his own quiet statement before it.
Reliever Sam Coonrod did not kneel with the rest of the Giants and Dodgers during a pregame ceremony in which everyone held a ribbon in reference to the Black Lives Matter movement.
He did not realize everyone was being asked to join the kneeling “until it was too late,” he said. A teammate approached him in the locker room and explained the show of unity. It was one Coonrod could not join because “I’m a Christian, so I just believe that I can’t kneel before anything besides God.”
“I was told nothing about this, and I just decided that I just couldn’t do it,” said Coonrod, a 27-year-old from St. Louis who debuted last year. “And I wouldn’t feel right if I did it, and it was past the point of me being able to talk with the team.”
He regrets not being able to converse with teammates who have been kneeling for the national anthem over this past week. But he also would not be a follower of Black Lives Matter, a movement that protests racism and police brutality against Black people.
“I just can’t get on board with a couple things I’ve read about Black Lives Matter, how they lean towards Marxism,” Coonrod said of the broadly anti-racist movement. “And … they said some negative things about the nuclear family. I just can’t get on board with that.”
Coonrod repeatedly said that he “meant no ill-will” in declining to kneel; “I don’t think I’m better than anybody.” There will need to be a conversation had with teammates like Jaylin Davis, Mike Yastrzemski, Hunter Pence and Austin Slater, all of whom have protested during “The Star-Spangled Banner” in the months after the death of George Floyd in police custody.
As has Gabe Kapler, who talked with Coonrod and heard his religious explanation.
“The one thing that we said is we were going to let people express themselves,” the manager said over Zoom. “We were going to give them the choice on whether they were going to stand, kneel or do something else. That was a personal decision for Sam.”
Coonrod appreciated the freedom.
“My favorite thing about [Kapler] so far is he told me no matter what we differ on in opinions, whether we agree or disagree on something, he always respects what people say,” Coonrod said after the Giants’ 8-1 loss to the Dodgers. “He’s not going to get mad if I disagree with him. I think that that’s part of the problem nowadays: People get mad whenever someone disagrees. I’m not mad at someone who decided to kneel. I just don’t think it’s too much to ask that I just get the same respect.”