When the Major League Baseball season began last Thursday, Americans tuned in by the millions to get a taste of normalcy.
Because the coronavirus has brought the national pastime to a standstill until now, fans were eager to see their favorite players take the field and do what they do best.
But then Los Angeles Dodgers star Mookie Betts took a knee to join the protest against police brutality, and fans went wild.
Days before taking a knee during the anthem, Betts was in intense negotiations with Dodgers management to hash out the details of his contract.
By the end of those negotiations, Betts successfully signed a deal worth $365 million, locking himself into a rich lifestyle of years to come.
However, opening day at Dodgers Stadium proved that Betts had more on his mind that money.
As several players from the rival San Francisco Giants took a knee during the anthem, Betts dropped to his knee as well, proclaiming his support for Black Americans who face a disproportionately high risk of death at the hands of a police officer.
Betts’s new contract is worth $365 million over twelve years.
This means that he has become the highest-paid MLB player to take a knee in protest of police brutality in America.
During the anthem, Betts also received support from teammates Max Muncy and Cody Bellinger, who put their hands on his shoulders in a sign of solidarity. However, these players did not take a knee at the opening game along with Betts.
On Twitter, Betts also received support from Alex Cora, his former manager with the Boston Red Sox.
The San Francisco Giants have not shied away from voicing their views on racial discrimination in America.
Players Mike Yastrzemski, Austin Slater, Jaylin Davis, and Antoan Richardson and their manager Gabe Kapler all knelt during an exhibition game before playing the Oakland Athletics.
Former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick previously played for the San Francisco 49ers.
Perhaps, the San Francisco sports teams take pride in the fact that Kaepernick is largely credited for making the protest mainstream.
Kapler was the first MLB manager to kneel during the anthem. He spoke to ESPN following the game and explained why it was important for him to speak out against injustice.
“Yeah, it was a really important unifying… on both sides. I think we felt a sense of calm in the ballpark at that moment, and it was really good to be around players who were so committed to changing the current state of systemic racism in our country.
It was really empowering to see the actions and steps that we’re taking today by Major League Baseball by the players’ alliance, the players association. Everybody involved did a great job.”
On July 23, MLB posted a video on Twitter showing players from the New York Yankees and Washington Nationals holding a two-hundred-yard black ribbon in honor of the Black community.
“Today, and every day, we come together as brothers,” the MLB wrote.
“As equals, all with the same goal – to level the playing field.
To change the injustices. Equality is not just a word.
It’s our right! Today we stand as men from 25 nations on six continents. Today, we are one.”