WASHINGTON — Aaron Hicks and Giancarlo Stanton took a knee during the national anthem Saturday night, becoming the first Yankees to do so. And both said that will continue.
As a prerecorded version of the anthem played, the pair took a knee along the leftfield line.
When the song ended, DJ LeMahieu patted both on the back in a show of support.
“Before the game, they kind of gave us a heads up,’’ LeMahieu said. “Didn’t want them to be there by themselves doing that. I wanted them to know I have their back and support them . . . It was my way of showing I was with them. They’re not doing it just to do it.’’
Yankees manager Aaron Boone said Hicks and Stanton informed him before the game about what they intended to do.
Said Boone, “I’m totally supportive of their decision to do that. I know it was heavy on their heart. I support their right to do that, and that it was very well thought out and something important to them.”
He added, “I think we were very united in how we wanted to handle it [Thursday]. Tonight was two people passionate about a decision, and I’m behind them and support [them] following their heart and mind in that.”
Hicks was asked why he did it. “Because I’m a Black man living in America,’’ he said. “For me, I should be judged by my character, not by my skin tone. I felt like it was right to do. It’s kind of a hard thing to talk about, especially when it’s my life. All I want is to be treated the right way and that’s all I’m asking.”
Said Stanton, “Just to show that we’re still in this fight. [Thursday] was a unified message; I just wanted to reiterate that it can’t be lost. I [want] to keep this movement moving forward. I thought it was the right thing to do.”
Did it bother Hicks that it was only the two of them kneeling?
“I’m not going to force my teammates to do anything they don’t feel comfortable doing,’’ he said. “It was our choice, and if somebody else joins, that’s awesome.”
What did it mean that LeMahieu patted them on the back?
“It means everything,’’ Hicks said. “All we want is to be treated as equals. That just shows that we have a great team and great people around us. They may not understand, but they’ve got our backs and that’s all we ask for.”
Does Stanton feel supported by his teammates? “Absolutely,’’ he said. “One thing I want to make sure of is I want to take the heat and be a part of this fight. I don’t want to have guys battle every night and then have to answer these questions. I would like for me to be handling these questions. They have a job to do as well.”
The decision by Stanton and Hicks to take a knee is noteworthy for a variety of reasons, not the least of which are the potential complications brought about by the Yankees’ invitation to President Donald Trump to throw out a ceremonial first pitch before the Aug. 15 game against the Red Sox.
More than a few in the organization — from players to staff to executives — were incensed, seeing a disconnect between the statement the club put out regarding Black Lives Matter and racial injustice on June 8 and the invitation.
Stanton’s thoughts on Trump throwing out the first pitch? “I’m not positive that’s a sure thing that’s going to happen,’’ he said. “We’ll get there when we get there. That’s in August. It’s not something I have to worry about now.”
Stanton was asked what kneeling during the anthem represents to him in terms of the message he wants to send. “Just for basic human rights in America,’’ he said. “It’s not equal and [kneeling is to promote] equality and for us to all have a fair shake. There’s a lot of things in the system that could be changed. It’s just a way to bring light to that.”
LeMahieu said that before Thursday’s opener, Stanton addressed his teammates on his experiences as a Black man in America. “It was a great meeting,” LeMahieu said.
Said Stanton, “A lot of my teammates haven’t experienced some of the things I have, and some have. Just to give them a little insight into the daily lives that we’ve gone through growing up. Though they may not understand, I want them to be with me.”
“Black lives matter,” read part of the lengthy statement released by the club on its Twitter page June 8. “The New York Yankees condemn racism, prejudice and injustice in all forms.”
On Wednesday, general manager Brian Cashman said he would support any of his players who chose to exercise his right to protest in such a manner.
“Obviously, that’s a manifestation of where our country currently is,” he said of the kneeling. “Our country is, in many ways, the greatest country in the world, and in some ways, it’s broken in certain aspects where we’re not all together and not all as one as we should be. And because of that, you’re seeing demonstrations like kneeling at the anthem as part of that process because part of our community is hurting when it shouldn’t be.
“And if it’s been ignored for such a long period of time and not been addressed as well as it should have been or could have been, the great part of America is there’s different ways to express yourself and different platforms to utilize how you express yourself. So I support the ability for somebody to protest in the way they see fit as long as it’s, obviously, in a legal and healthy way. I think there’s nothing more American than being able to express your beliefs. I’m always supportive of that.”
Before Thursday night’s opener, the majority of players on both teams wore Black Lives Matter T-shirts, pretty much the case across the league.
Then, before Thursday’s anthem, both teams lined up along the lines and took a knee while holding a black cloth that extended almost foul pole to foul pole as Morgan Freeman read an audio clip addressing social injustice.
“I thought it was a good idea to have everyone kneel at the same time and bring hope for any overall reason you want to do it,” Stanton said after Thursday’s game. “And for me, it’s for the racial injustice and the Black lives in general and a lot of other things that’s been going on. But we all have individual reasons to be able to do so.”