However, while the NFL season is just getting going, another major professional sport has been in full swing, with multiple games occurring daily but no apparent emulations of Kaepernick. So why aren’t any baseball players, black ones in particular, following suit?
Orioles star Adam Jones offered an answer Monday to USA Today. “Baseball is a white man’s sport,” he said.
“We already have two strikes against us already,’’ said Jones (not to be confused with the Bengals’ Adam Jones, who also recently spoke out on the topic), “so you might as well not kick yourself out of the game. In football, you can’t kick them out. You need those players. In baseball, they don’t need us.”
Jones, of course, doesn’t have to worry about getting kicked out of his sport, as a five-time all-star and four-time Gold Glove winner currently batting .281, with 27 home runs and 80 RBI. However, the 31-year-old, known for his interest in civic and social issues, is well aware that, unlike in the NFL, black men such as himself are very much in the minority, and increasingly so.
According to the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, players who identified themselves as African American made up 8.3 percent of Opening Day rosters in the MLB, a number that has held steady over the past few years but is down from 19.0 percent in 1995. More than in other major sports, baseball is known for its unwritten “code,” which strongly encourages conformity and against which even white stars such as Bryce Harper have chafed.
With 162 regular season games, not to mention spring training contests, baseball players are asked to stand for the national anthem far more than their football counterparts. Jones has had countless opportunities to observe, as he noted to USA Today, that plenty of people either do not know the words to the song or simply aren’t paying attention to it.
To Jones, Kaepernick isn’t “disrespecting the military,” or anyone or anything else, but “showing that he doesn’t like the social injustice that the flag represents.” He pointed out that, while Kaepernick has drawn widespread condemnation, his 49ers recently released a white player, Bruce Miller, whose alleged act of assaulting a 70-year-old man and his son got far less scrutiny.
Miller is “not receiving the ridicule and public torture that Kaepernick is facing,” Jones said. “Is Kaepernick hurting me? No. Is he hurting random people out there? No. I support his decision.
“At the end of the day, if you don’t respect his freedoms, then why the hell are we Americans? It’s supposed to be the Land of the Free, right?’’
Many fans just want athletes to keep quiet and play ball, a situation Jones addressed. “The outside world doesn’t really respect athletes,’’ he said, “unless they talk about what they want them to talk about. Society doesn’t think we deserve the right to have an opinion on social issues.”
“The First Amendment says we have freedom of expression,” Jones said. “We’re supposed to be so free, so free. But any time anybody of color speaks up in the United States, for some odd reason, they always get the raw end of the deal. It sucks.
“At the end of the day, black men have fought for this right,” he continued. “Indians have fought for this right. White people fought for this right. Mexicans have fought for this right. Japanese have fought this for this right. The United States was not just made up of one race.
“So let’s just not say that in America, only one person can say something. We all have input because America has always been a country that has united everybody.’’