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Matheny would support player who kneels

MLB.com @LangoschMLB

PITTSBURGH -- A day after A's rookie Bruce Maxwell took a knee during the national anthem, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny stated that he would support a player who chose to exercise freedom of expression in such a way.

Several National Football League players have knelt or been absent when the national anthem has played since Colin Kaepernick first did so last season in an effort to raise awareness about brutality and injustice at the hands of authorities. Those actions were further highlighted on Friday when the president made reference to NFL players not standing for the anthem as employees who, as he put it, should be fired by their teams.

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PITTSBURGH -- A day after A's rookie Bruce Maxwell took a knee during the national anthem, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny stated that he would support a player who chose to exercise freedom of expression in such a way.

Several National Football League players have knelt or been absent when the national anthem has played since Colin Kaepernick first did so last season in an effort to raise awareness about brutality and injustice at the hands of authorities. Those actions were further highlighted on Friday when the president made reference to NFL players not standing for the anthem as employees who, as he put it, should be fired by their teams.

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The comments prompted responses, many on social media forums, from professional athletes across the sports landscape, including those in MLB.

"I think we have people all across the board with how they feel about this," Matheny said on Sunday. "Unfortunately, what our president said hurt a lot of people, and those are American citizens that have rights, and those are athletes who are going to have their own ideas and thoughts of how they want to defend those rights.

"I think when we get into these situations, I can never put myself in somebody else's shoes or circumstances and how their life has led to the point of how they think about topics. But when people are offended and they feel that their rights are being infringed upon, in this country we have a voice. I think that's what we're seeing now."

Matheny said he has not addressed this topic in the clubhouse nor has any individual player approached him to express a desire to either kneel or not be present when it is performed prior to the game.

For years, Matheny has requested that all of his players line up along the grass for the national anthem. Those who don't incur a fine that is donated to charity. Players in the starting lineup are exempt from being fined, and Matheny said that so, too, would anyone who chose not to appear because of specific beliefs or opinions.

That desire to have his team well-represented on the field for the presentation of colors and the national anthem came out of Matheny's intent to specifically honor those who have served in the military.

"I have two grandfathers who were both in World War II, and I think about them often, two of the greatest men I've ever met," Matheny said. "It's an incredible generation, and I would hate to do anything to disrespect them. And I believe our ownership would say the same thing. I believe they appreciate the fact that our guys do respectfully stand out there for our anthem and for our flag. But this is a different issue. The thing about this one is that it doesn't really seem to be an issue about patriotism.

"I'll continue to salute the flag with my hand over my heart because I believe in the bigger picture of what our country stands for. I also understand, too, that this is a tough topic for a lot of people, and they need to respond how they feel best. This has caused an issue in our country and in sports because athletes have a voice."

On Sunday, every Cardinals player and coach who lined the field for the national anthem did so standing.

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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