ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 145

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Gabe Kapler, SF Giants’ manager, to skip pregame national anthem in protest

A former coach for Team Israel and one of the most prominent Jews in baseball today, Kapler says his decision comes from belief that the US is not ‘representing us well right now’

San Francisco Giants manager Gabe Kapler walks across the field during a game against the Cincinnati Reds in Cincinnati, Ohio on May 27, 2022. (Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
San Francisco Giants manager Gabe Kapler walks across the field during a game against the Cincinnati Reds in Cincinnati, Ohio on May 27, 2022. (Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

JTA — In the summer of 2020, Gabe Kapler, then in his first season as manager of the San Francisco Giants, joined figures across sports in taking a knee during the national anthem to protest police brutality.

Now, two years later, Kapler has announced that he will not take the field at all for the anthem out of broad dismay over the United States’ direction, spurred by the mass murder of 19 children at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, earlier this month.

“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,” Kapler wrote on his blog. “I don’t believe it is representing us well right now.”

Kapler, a former coach for Team Israel, is one of the most prominent Jews in baseball today. He is also one of the most prominent liberals, and an outspoken critic of “unwritten rules” in baseball that have historically constrained both gameplay and political speech.

In his blog post, he said he regretted participating in the rituals surrounding the national anthem, which he called “self-congratulatory glorification,” before the Giants’ game on Wednesday, the day after the Uvalde massacre.

“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,’” Kapler wrote. “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.”

Taking a knee for the anthem gained prominence as an act of protest across sports in 2016, when then-NFLer Colin Kaepernick made the gesture to protest police killings and racism. Kaepernick was cut from his team soon after — a move that he charged in a lawsuit represented retaliation by the league — and has not played football since.

Along with coaching the Israel team in the 2013 World Baseball Classic, Kapler visited Israel in 2017 and toured with the national team then, shortly before becoming the manager of the Philadelphia Phillies. Kapler — who has a Star of David tattooed on his right calf and the Holocaust remembrance refrain “Never Again” tattooed on his left calf — joined the Giants in 2019, after being fired from the Phillies. He was named National League Manager of the Year last year.

Kapler said he could join his team for the national anthem on Memorial Day. “I’m very comfortable taking it day by day,” he said.

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