After the May 24 mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas that killed 19 children and two teachers, the sports world has reacted with indignation. San Francisco Giants manager Gabe Kapler’s decision to skip the pregame U.S. national anthem going forward is bound to spark another furious debate concerning the most divisive bit of Americana of our times.
Kapler has said he won’t participate in the anthem, as act of protest over gun violence in the United States. Unlike Colin Kaepernick, who began kneeling during the anthem in 2016 and hasn’t played in the NFL since that time—though he had a workout with the Las Vegas Raiders this week—Kapler isn’t sitting or kneeling during the Star Spangled Banner. He says he’ll just stay away from the field, indefinitely, until “I feel better about the direction of our country.”
“I’m often struck before our games by the lack of delivery of the promise of what our national anthem represents,” Kapler wrote on his personal blog. “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.”
“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.”
Kapler’s gesture has already received the predictable blowback. “San Francisco Giants manager Gabe Kapler is the latest ingrate to disrespect our flag and proud nation,” wrote Sid Rosenberg, co-host of the Bernie and Sid morning radio program on WABC in New York City, on Twitter. “This coming days away from most Americans celebrating our best’s heroism on Memorial Day. He should pick up Kaepernick in his fancy car & leave the country today. Get out Gabe!”
For some, their outrage at Kapler will no doubt scream louder than their calls for tighter control regulations, like we’ve see in countries like Australia and Japan, where rates of gun violence are much lower than the United States. He’ll be accused of virtue signaling, and of being self-serving. Kapler, however, has always done things his own way. A recent ESPN article called him an “inveterate experimenter and a devoted nonconformist.” Kapler, who spent a dozen years playing in the majors, used 148 different lineups a year ago: the Giants won 107 games. He’s surely the only manager to receive a question about his devotion to coconut oil at an introductory press conference. His parents were civil rights activists.
Kapler admitted that his action is unlikely to “move the needle” on gun legislation. But in a time of national mourning over Uvalde, he reminded a grieving country that gestures of patriotism can come in all forms.
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