Mariners put a lot of thought into National Anthem decision

Jul 24, 2020, 6:57 PM
The Mariners' Dee Gordon, Justus Sheffield, Mallex Smith, J.P. Crawford and Shed Long Jr. (not pictured) all raised their fists Friday during the National Anthem. (Getty)

The Mariners joined the rest of MLB teams by having members of the team and coaching staff take a knee prior to the National Anthem, which is played prior to every major sporting event in the United States, ahead of Seattle’s first game of the 2020 season against the Houston Astros.

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The entire Mariners team took a knee prior to the song, but the entire team stood when it began, with some players raising a fist.

Major League Baseball has recently become vocal about supporting the Black Lives Matter movement in the U.S., and more and more players in the league are using their platforms to bring attention and awareness to the cause and others that mean a lot to them.

If you have watched any games Thursday or Friday, you likely noticed “BLM” sprayed into the back of the pitcher’s mound in black, with the MLB logo, also in black, sprayed above it.

For the Mariners, the team has made it clear how much they support the movement, and has their manager. Prior to Friday’s game, Scott Servais wore a Black Lives Matter shirt in his pre-game video conference with members of the media, and in recent comments has spoken about an openness to learning more about the reasons behind the movement.

Mariners players also wore Black Lives Matter shirts prior to Friday’s game.

During MLB’s shutdown, the Mariners held a video roundtable with four Black players – J.P. Crawford, Dee Gordon, Shed Long and Kyle Lewis – and announcer Dave Sims, who is also Black, where they discussed their experiences in baseball and society.

The Mariners have 10 Black players on the 40-man roster, and Servais said he and his players have been engaging in more dialogue and conversations about systematic racism in the U.S. and other issues that Black citizens face in the country. He also said that the team discussed the National Anthem “multiple times” heading into opening day.

“We feel really, really good about the conversations we’ve had,” Servais said. “We met again yesterday (Thursday) and the leadership group that we have, they have a good plan in place. We talked about it as a team yesterday, the kudos goes out to the Players Alliance and the job that those guys have been able to do in kind of grouping the players around the league so you’re not just getting voices from one or two teams, you’re getting voices from everywhere and even players who are no longer playing.”

The Players Alliance is a group of current and former Black players that aims “to create an inclusive culture within baseball and the community, where differences are leveraged to elevate racial equality and provide greater opportunities for the Black community, both in our game and the places we live in, play in, and care about most.”

The Mariners have representation in that organization, as Gordon is an Advisory Board member and Crawford, Justin Dunn, Lewis, Long, Justus Sheffield and Taijuan Walker are all on the Major League Player Committee.

“I think the Players Alliance has been a great resource for all of baseball, not just the Black players,” Servais said.

Some may disagree with players and coaches kneeling before the National Anthem, but Servais said it’s all about freedom and change.

“I’ve said it all along and continue to say it, the beauty of our country is freedom of choice and we have to respect people in whatever they do,” he said, “and certainly I want all of our guys to know I support them in whatever they choose to do and really, the more we talk and learn from each other, that’s how you really induce change. And that’s what it’s about, it’s about change and our guys understand that, so we’re in a good spot with that. Again, I don’t know what every player is going to do, nor should I and it’s not for me to judge. But we’ll handle it and continue to talk about it as the season goes on.”

In a recent interview with 710 ESPN Seattle’s Brock and Salk Podcast, Servais said he’s doing everything he can to be aware of what’s going on in the U.S. and Black communities as well as listening and engaging with the entire team in serious conversations.

“When things started to heighten and the noise got louder – and it was for a good reason – it was an opportunity for me to kind of step back being the leader here and understanding there are some things that I need to get better at and I need to learn with hopes of educating our people when they come in – coaches, players and everyone alike – so I’ve spent a lot of time over the last few months kind of reevaluating and relearning and some of the things that I thought I knew were not correct,” Servais said. “And then passing that along and having conversations with our young players, we’ve talked about it as a team, the things that are out there and we need to be aware of and what’s been great to see in our clubhouse is because we are so diverse is the group has really pulled together.”

Servais also tipped his cap to the younger players who are using their platforms and social media accounts to spark change and conversations in positive ways.

“It’s just trying to create an environment where we can learn from each other and hopefully make change. That’s the goal here and for us and the world we live in, it’s make change in baseball,” he said. “And because we have a number of young players who are outspoken and doing a nice job on social media explaining their thoughts and going about it the right way and being respectful there, I’m really proud of our group and it’s not over. It’s not just something we talk about here or there, it’s something that needs to continue and I’m a big part of helping create change here in our team, in our sport, around the city and really around the country in any sort of way I can, but I can only do that if I do a better job of educating myself. And that’s the change that I’ve tried to make and pass that along to some of our coaches and our players.”

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Mariners put a lot of thought into National Anthem decision