Athletes shouldn’t be shamed into participating in social movements, but they shouldn’t hide behind their religion if they object to a cause.
Yesterday was opening day at Dodger Stadium, and just like every season prior, the first game of the year involved pomp and circumstance. Last night was no exception as the players, coaches and managers of the visiting San Francisco Giants and the home team took a knee and held up a 200-yard-long black ribbon.
Just moments before, Morgan Freeman’s voice delivered a message over the speakers. “Equality and unity cannot be until there is empathy,” Freeman said. “Today and every day, we come together as equals, all with the same goal. To level the playing field, to change the injustices. Equality is not just a word. It’s our right. Today, we stand as men from 25 nations, on six continents. Today, we are one.”
This gesture first took place a few hours prior, at Washington, D.C.’s Nationals Park, featuring the Yankees and Nationals.
Only one player did not kneel during the tender moment at Chavez Ravine — San Francisco reliever Sam Coonrod.
“I’m a Christian,” the 27-year-old from St. Louis, Missouri, told reporters after the game. “So, I just believe that I can’t kneel before anything besides God.”
I’m not here to say people should be forced into things that make them uncomfortable, especially in public, particularly in front of cameras, and for damn sure not on Opening Day.
If you don’t want to kneel, fine. But don’t bring Christianity into it. A religion based on the teachings of Jesus Christ, who never once said kneel only before God.
On Instagram, Coonrod says he is a follower of Jesus and quotes John 3:3, where Jesus says one must be “born again” to enter heaven.
While there is great debate over what being “born again” means, there’s zero debate that later in the book, specifically in John 13:1-17, Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. All of them. Even Judas, who betrayed him.
Wouldn’t one assume that to wash someone’s feet you’d need to kneel before them to do it? Even if Jesus was sitting on a cushion, the symbolism is clear: Jesus is prostrating himself to his servants. He is showing selflessness to those of a lower station in life. He is honoring man. He is showing love.
The act made some of the disciples uncomfortable. As men, we are taught to be macho. Athletes even moreso. We believe we must be strong and tough and never show weakness. Jesus told Simon Peter, who was clearly freaked out: “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.”
And I think that is a good approach to take with MAGA-cap wearers like Coonrod, who also claims to be uncomfortable supporting Black Lives Matter — an organization endorsed by Major League Baseball — because “they lean towards Marxism, and … they said some negative things about the nuclear family.”
Coonrod may not understand now, but one day he might.
Even those with a cursory grasp of what Black Lives Matter is about should have gleaned by now that the movement is rooted in the fact that Black people in the USA are murdered at a higher rate than others, per capita, by police. Arrested and imprisoned at a higher rate even here in L.A. And are generally mistreated more than any other group simply because of the color of their skin.
It took marches in every state of the union for police officers in Minneapolis to be arrested for the murder of George Floyd. Breonna Taylor’s killers have yet to be brought to justice. And Christians who are taught the Golden Rule should know that we ought to want for others what we want for ourselves. In this case, equality.
It’s great that Coonrad is a Christian. That means that at some point in his reading of the Bible, he will get to Jesus’ last commandment, which also happens to be in the book of John.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another,” Jesus says in John 13:34-35.
And I ask you, is there a better way to love each other the way Jesus loved his disciples than to take a knee while helping those who have been discriminated against, enslaved and mistreated in this country for centuries?
Are there meatheads in sports? Coddled stars who’ve been pampered and babied since youth because they can hurl a ball 60 feet in such a way to evade a round bat? Yup.
But they are also our neighbors. And we who identify as Christians are instructed to love them as we love ourselves. This might be harder when they wear Giants colors, but, just as Jesus washed Judas’ feet, if we are to truly attempt to walk down the uncomfortable straight and narrow path that He did, we should consider this a challenge and accept it.