San Francisco Giants manager Gabe Kapler published an essay Friday in which he criticized the state of the country after the shooting at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas that left 19 students and two teachers dead and said he regrets not taking a knee during the pre-game playing of the national anthem in protest.
The Giants played the New York Mets Tuesday night at Oracle Park in San Francisco, just hours after the shooting took place. Like much of the sporting world, moments of silence were held prior to games starting across the country. Kapler said that as the anthem played, he considered taking a knee but opted not to.
“My brain said drop to a knee; my body didn’t listen,” Kapler wrote in the essay. “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.
“But I am not okay with the state of this country. I wish I hadn’t let my discomfort compromise my integrity. I wish that I could have demonstrated what I learned from my dad, that when you’re dissatisfied with your country, you let it be known through protest. The home of the brave should encourage this.”
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Later on Friday, Kapler told reporters in Cincinnati that he would not be coming out onto the field for the national anthem “until I feel better about the direction of our country.”
In 2020, Kapler and several Giants players and staff, became the first members of a Major League Baseball team to kneel during the national anthem since Bruce Maxwell in September 2017. Kapler was believed to be the first head coach in any of the four major North American sports leagues to protest racial injustice in that manner.
Kapler’s comments echo those from other sporting figures, such as Warriors coach Steve Kerr, who gave an impassioned speech advocating for gun control reform before Golden State played the Dallas Mavericks Tuesday in the Western Conference finals.
In his essay, Kapler added his voice to the chorus and lamented the influence that lobbyists hold over politicians and their legislative decisions.
“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. 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.”
The shooting was the deadliest at a U.S. grade school since the 2012 attack at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Wearing body armor and firing hundreds of rounds, the 18-year-old gunman killed 19 children and two adults, Texas Department of Public Safety Lt. Chris Olivarez said.
In the wake of the shooting, many politicians have avoided talking about gun control issues. U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, walked away from an interview on Wednesday after a reporter asked him why some mass shootings happen “only in America.” Many other lawmakers have responded with calls for prayer.
“I’m often struck before our games by the lack of delivery of the promise of what our national anthem represents,” Kapler wrote. “We stand in honor of a country where we elect representatives to serve us, to thoughtfully consider and enact legislation that protects the interests of all the people in this country and to move this country forward towards the vision of the ‘shining city on the hill.’ But instead, we thoughtlessly link our moment of silence and grief with the equally thoughtless display of celebration for a country that refuses to take up the concept of controlling the sale of weapons used nearly exclusively for the mass slaughter of human beings.
“We have our moment (over and over), and then we move on without demanding real change from the people we empower to make these changes. We stand, we bow our heads, and the people in power leave on recess, celebrating their own patriotism at every turn.”
Kapler, 46, is in his third season as the manager in San Francisco and was a former player for six different teams from 1998-2010.
Contributing: Marina Pitofsky, N’dea Yancey-Bragg, Trevor Hughes and Chris Kenning