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Yankees, Nationals kneel in support of Black Lives Matter movement ahead of Opening Day matchup

Members of the New York Yankees and Washington

Members of the New York Yankees and Washington Nationals kneel before the start of the first inning of an opening day baseball game at Nationals Park, Thursday, July 23, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) Credit: AP/Alex Brandon

WASHINGTON — Aaron Boone sat down for his pregame Zoom call late Thursday afternoon proudly wearing a Black Lives Matter T-shirt.

And pretty much all of his players — including Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Gary Sanchez, Aaron Hicks, Gio Urshela and Gleyber Torres — wore the same shirt during batting practice before the season opener against the Nationals.

“We’ve had conversations as an organization, we’ve had conversations as a team, we’ve had smaller group conversations, conversations with one another,” Boone said. “We’ve kind of decided as a team, not that necessarily everyone will be wearing these for batting practice, I know a lot of guys are. I felt like I wanted to wear it. And tonight as a team we’ll have our own demonstration moving forward.”

It ended up being both teams, though pre-national anthem, and it was something spearheaded by the Yankees, who informed the Nationals of their intentions. The home team chose to join them.

Before the anthem, both teams, lined up at a responsible social distance along the lines, 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.

On Monday, general manager Brian Cashman indicated he would support any of his players who chose to kneel during the anthem as a form of protest. But all Yankees — and Nationals — on the field during Thursday’s anthem stood at attention.

The Yankees  wore patches that said “Black Lives Matter” and “United For Change,'' both of which were located on the left sleeve above a patch that honored the late Hank Steinbrenner.

When Max Scherzer took the mound in the first, he did so with a Black Lives Matter/MLB stencil that will be a part of every opening weekend series.

“It’s freedom of speech, it’s the Bill of Rights,” Gerrit Cole, the Yankees’ starter Thursday, said the day before. “It’s what the country’s founded on, to be able to express yourself.”  

Soto tests positive

Hours before first pitch, it was revealed that Nationals star Juan Soto, the brightest of the young stars on the defending World Series champions, had tested positive for COVID-19.

The news was stunning, and Boone said his initial reaction upon hearing about the 21-year-old — who homered off Cole in Game 1 of the World Series last October in Houston — was “just shock.”

Though it’s possible that Soto infected some of his teammates, Boone said he had “no hesitation” about sending his team on the field. He will, however, encourage his players and coaches to avoid the generally routine pregame chatter with the opposition.

“It is a reminder that these things can happen,” Boone said.

Trump to throw first pitch

The Yankees confirmed that President Donald Trump will throw out the ceremonial first pitch before their Aug. 15 game against the Red Sox. The president first mentioned it during a news briefing earlier in the day.

New York Sports