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Ron Darling explains the lack of anthem protests in baseball

Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell kneels during the national

Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell kneels during the national anthem before a game against the Rangers on Sept. 23, 2017, in Oakland, Calif. Credit: AP / Eric Risberg

Major League Baseball so far has not seen much in the way of the pregame demonstrations that have roiled the NFL in recent days, and prompted sharp opinions out of the NBA.

Ron Darling, a Turner and SNY analyst, and a major league pitcher from 1983 to 1995, said he is not surprised.

“Unless baseball’s clubhouses have changed since I played, and I know they haven’t, it’s a very conservative base,” he said during a lunch in Manhattan on Tuesday to promote Turner’s coverage of the National League playoffs.

Darling referenced recent comments from Rays pitcher Chris Archer, who said he decided not to pursue action during the national anthem when he sensed teammates would not have been on board with that. (Only the Athletics’ Bruce Maxwell has made a point of kneeling for the anthem.)

“I think that Chris Archer’s comments spoke volumes,” Darling said, “and that is that in a baseball locker room it’s very, very difficult. It’s a you’re-either-part-of-the-group-or-you’re-out kind of deal. So that to me makes what Maxwell was doing pretty amazing.

“I think doing it in Oakland might be the right place, right time, right town kind of deal. But I know that there are silly little things that I couldn’t even share on how difficult it is to stand out.”

Then Darling did share one example: He described himself as a “voracious” reader, but he never read in a clubhouse in his 13 seasons.

“I didn’t want to have to deal with the constant on you all day long about, ‘Oh, the Yale guy reading another book. How’s that book going? What are you reading?’ That kind of stuff. I never, ever read a book in the clubhouse because of the atmosphere that you sometimes have in there.

“I wasn’t brave enough to stand out, is the phrase. That’s why I admire what [Colin] Kaepernick has done, because look what it’s done to him. He’s not one of the best 64 athletes who can play the position? Apparently not to the owners.

“So I think it’s very difficult to do what Maxwell is doing in a baseball clubhouse, almost impossible, and I’d be very surprised if we see anything in the postseason. Baseball has tried to spend the last 20 years trying to get young, amazing black athletes to play their sport. It’s down from a high in the ’60s and ’70s when we had some of the greatest players in the history of the game play, so the race element is part of it. Football, basketball, baseball. There’s a difference.

“We also have a third of the players, great players, who have their own issues in their own Latin American countries and don’t have any skin in the game, or feel like they don’t, and also [there is] the language restriction.”

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