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Giants manager Gabe Kapler kneels during national anthem, gains MLB support

July 21 (UPI) -- San Francisco Giants manager Gabe Kapler became the first MLB manager to kneel during the national anthem when he took part in the protest against racial injustice and police brutality before a summer camp game.

Kapler knelt alongside several players and staff members Monday before the Giants faced the Oakland Athletics in a preseason clash at Oakland, Calif. Giants outfielder Jaylin Davis and first-base coach Antoan Richardson were among those who kneeled with Kapler, while shortstop Brandon Crawford stood between Davis and Richardson and put a hand on each of their shoulders.

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Kapler referenced the Friday death of congressman and Civil Rights icon John Lewis when asked about the protest.

"I think what stands out to me about him was his recognition that the fight against injustice is a constant one, one that he gave his entire life to," Kapler told reporters. "He recognized the difficulty of standing for what is right and yet did so with grace and dignity. I believe his legacy is most felt in his encouragement for all of us to act, to speak out, to 'make some noise and get in good trouble.'"

The peaceful protest took place on the same field former Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell knelt on in 2017, when he became the first MLB player to kneel during the anthem. Los Angeles Angels relief pitcher Keynan Middleton on Monday also knelt before the national anthem prior to a summer camp game against the San Diego Padres.

Kapler, 44, said he had a team meeting with Giants players Monday about the protest.

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"I wanted them to know that I wasn't pleased with the way our country has handled police brutality and I told them I wanted to amplify their voices and I wanted to amplify the voice of the Black community and marginalized communities as well," Kapler said.

"So I told them that I wanted to use my platform to demonstrate my dissatisfaction with the way we've handled racism in our country. I wanted to demonstrate my dissatisfaction with our clear systemic racism in our country and I wanted them to know that they got to make their own decisions and we would respect and support those decisions. I wanted them to feel safe in speaking up."

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The MLB social media accounts included a clip of Kapler, Davis and Richardson's protests on Monday and wrote "Black Lives Matter" in the caption. The league's official accounts also responded to criticism by saying the "players and coaches are using their platforms to peacefully protest."

The Giants beat the Athletics 6-2 Monday at RingCentral Coliseum. Alyssa Nakken, the first female coach in MLB history, coached first base for the Giants during the preseason clash.

Kapler said the team will have "60 chances" to have similar protests during the shortened 2020 MLB season.

"Right now it's another opportunity tomorrow [Tuesday] night," Kapler said.

The Giants host the Athletics in another summer camp game at 9:45 p.m. EDT Tuesday at Oracle Park in San Francisco.

Baseball kicks off with preseason training

Kansas City Royals batter Alex Gordon connects for a sacrifice RBI during an exhibition game against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium in St. Louis on July 22. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo

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