Gabe Kapler observed his own moment of silence sometime before the San Francisco Giants team he manages opened its Memorial Day Weekend series in Cincinnati on Friday night. His moment came not before a national anthem nor while standing at attention at the edge of a dugout.
Instead, it occurred at a keyboard as he quietly filtered his own grief and outrage into a fiery blog post under the headline, “Home of the Brave?”
He then tweeted the post, describing it with one sentence: “We’re not the land of the free nor the home of the brave right now.”
“When I was the same age as the children in Uvalde, my father taught me to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance when I believed my country was representing its people well or to protest and stay seated when it wasn’t. I don’t believe it is representing us well,” Kapler wrote, adding: “Every time I place my hand over my heart and remove my hat, I’m participating in a self-congratulatory glorification of the ONLY country where these mass shootings take place.”
Consequently, as Kapler would later tell reporters in Cincinnati, he no longer intends to be on the field for pregame national anthems “until I feel better about the direction of our country.” Kapler said he didn’t necessarily expect his protest to “move the needle,” but that he felt strongly enough to take this step.
In his blog post, Kapler said he regretted standing on the field for the national anthem and observing a moment of silence before a game in San Francisco against the Mets this week just hours after a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Texas. Kapler said that he was “having a hard time articulating my thoughts the day of the shooting” and that “sometimes, for me, it takes a couple of days to put things together.”
From Opinion: The Texas School Shooting
Commentary from Times Opinion on the massacre at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.
- Michelle Goldberg: As we come to terms with yet another tragedy, the most common sentiment is a bitter acknowledgment that nothing is going to change.
- Nicholas Kristof, a former Times Opinion columnist: Gun policy is complicated and politically vexing, and it won’t make everyone safe. But it could reduce gun deaths.
- Roxane Gay: For all our cultural obsession with civility, there is nothing more uncivilized than the political establishment’s acceptance of the constancy of mass shootings.
- Jay Caspian Kang: By sharing memes with each new tragedy, we have created a museum of unbearable sorrow, increasingly dense with names and photos of the deceased.
In that way, he is not unlike another Bay Area sports figure who wrestled with the most meaningful way to protest. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick, formerly of the San Francisco 49ers, also struggled. He began by sitting during the national anthem to protest racial inequality and police brutality, and after consulting with Nate Boyer, a retired Army Green Beret and former N.F.L. player, he started kneeling instead.
For Kaepernick, that protest proved to have lasting consequences. Despite having previously led his team to a Super Bowl appearance, he was not signed after opting out of his contract following the 2016 season. He has only been given the chance to work out for teams a few times since. In 2019, he and his former teammate Eric Reid settled a lawsuit against the N.F.L. in which they had accused the league’s teams of colluding against them.
“My brain said drop to a knee; my body didn’t listen,” Kapler wrote of his swirl of emotions before this week’s Mets-Giants game. “I wanted to walk back inside; instead I froze. I felt like a coward. I didn’t want to call attention to myself. I didn’t want to take away from the victims or their families. There was a baseball game, a rock band, the lights, the pageantry. I knew that thousands of people were using this game to escape the horrors of the world for just a little bit. I knew that thousands more wouldn’t understand the gesture and would take it as an offense to the military, to veterans, to themselves.”
Kapler’s action — put off temporarily by a rain delay in Cincinnati — continues a steady stream of protests from the sports world this week. Coach Steve Kerr of the Golden State Warriors forcefully spoke out in favor of gun control ahead of his team’s Western Conference finals game on Tuesday. On Thursday, both the Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays used their Twitter and Instagram feeds to post facts about gun violence rather than posting anything about the game between the rival teams.
“We elect our politicians to represent our interests,” Kapler wrote. “Immediately following this shooting, we were told we needed locked doors and armed teachers. We were given thoughts and prayers. We were told it could have been worse, and we just need love.
“But we weren’t given bravery, and we aren’t free,” he wrote. “The police on the scene put a mother in handcuffs as she begged them to go in and save her children. They blocked parents trying to organize to charge in to stop the shooter, including a father who learned his daughter was murdered while he argued with the cops. We aren’t free when politicians decide that the lobbyist and gun industries are more important than our children’s freedom to go to school without needing bulletproof backpacks and active shooter drills.”