LOS ANGELES — There was no ribbon to hold Friday. There was a national anthem to kneel or stand through, and the Giants continued to make their decisions independent of one another.
Sam Coonrod was not on the field at the time — relief pitchers infrequently are — yet it stands to reason he was standing at attention, as he was when the rest of his teammates knelt in a moment of silence the night prior.
The Giants relief pitcher, with 33 games of big-league experience and previously an unknown even in pockets of San Francisco, suddenly finds himself beloved or reviled country-wide, the subject of religious pride and the subject of left-wing exasperation.
That’s significant for Coonrod the individual. What about Coonrod the teammate? How does the clubhouse, which contains at least 12 players and coaches who have knelt during the national anthem, view the righty? How does his manager, who wore a “Black Lives Matter” shirt for Friday’s Zoom interview, feel?
“Sam and I have spoken every day, and I support him expressing himself and sharing his beliefs,” Gabe Kapler said from Dodger Stadium before Game Two of the season. “I support all of our players, hearing their thoughts, and it means we’re able to have a conversation about really important topics when we’re constantly communicating.
“Sam said that he’s going to be talking to people about these issues now more because of last night’s events and I’m happy to share my position with him.”
Last night’s events included Coonrod explaining his refusal to kneel in a pregame show of unity, the only Giant or Dodger still on his feet. The 27-year-old from St. Louis said as a Christian, he will only kneel for God. More problematically for his kneeling teammates, though, he compared “Black Lives Matter” to Marxism and said it is trying to disrupt the nuclear family.
Black Lives Matter is a loose movement that aims to expose and take down racism that is rampant in this country.
“Black Lives Matter is to me not a political issue, but a simple statement of something I believe to be true,” said Kapler, navigating a potential locker-room issue in between Games One and Two as Giants skipper. “And it’s a movement. I want to work towards ending racial inequality. I want us to promote social justice. And it’s really important that we amplify voices of marginalized groups and create pipelines to increase diversity in this industry in particular.
“Sam and I are going to continue to talk every day so that he understands my position and I want to understand his better.”
Coonrod had expressed frustration that he did not have a chance to talk through his feelings with teammates before “it was too late,” being informed shortly before the ceremony that everyone would be kneeling.
Kapler, both hailed for and proud of his communication skills, said the team had meetings about the ceremony in the days before the opener, but “as we got closer to the actual moment, there were some changes to the ceremony,” he said.
Coonrod was not made available before Friday’s game, and the Giants position players took the field to warm up wearing “Black Lives Matter” T-shirts. The Giants have one African-American player, Jaylin Davis, a quiet individual who has spoken out since the death of George Floyd in police custody. Davis, a young outfielder, has become a face of Black Lives Matter in Major League Baseball.
Kapler said he was not sure if Coonrod and Davis have talked yet.