The Opening Night ceremony at Nationals Park was coordinated and poignant, uniting all uniformed members of the Yankees and Nationals rosters in holding a 200-yard black fabric before kneeling in a prolonged moment of silence.
As racial equality continues to be discussed within the clubhouse walls and in cities across the country, Giancarlo Stanton wants to publicly convey that the fight is far from over. Stanton and Aaron Hicks became the first Yankees to kneel for the national anthem prior to Saturday's 9-2 loss in Washington.
"I'm for basic human rights in America," Stanton said. "It's not equal. I'm for equality and for us all to have a fair shake. There's a lot of things in the system that can be changed, and it's just a way to bring light to that."
As the pre-recorded version of national anthem concluded, infielder DJ LeMahieu walked between Hicks and Stanton, tapping their shoulders in a sign of support. LeMahieu later said that he wanted to let Hicks and Stanton know that "I've got their backs and they've got my support."
"It means everything," Hicks said of LeMahieu's display. "All we want is to be treated as equal. That just shows that we have a great team and great people around us. They may not understand, but they've got our backs. That's all we ask for."
Prior to the season opener, Stanton spoke passionately during a team meeting in which he referenced the May 25 killing of George Floyd, sharing his experiences growing up as a person of color in the Los Angeles area. Stanton said that he wants to use his platform to keep the discussion moving forward.
"A lot of my teammates and coaches haven't experienced some of the things that I have; some have," Stanton said. "I gave them a little insight on the daily lives that we've gone through growing up. I want to be unified with everyone. They may not understand all that, but I wanted them to be with me and that we can all figure out a way to do it together."
Hicks said that in the wake of Floyd's killing, he has made a conscious effort to be more involved in social matters, including wearing more black clothing and supporting Black-owned businesses.
"I'm a Black man living in America," Hicks said. "I feel like for me, I should be judged by my character, not by my skin tone. Growing up, that's kind of what happened. I felt like [kneeling for the anthem] 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. That's all I'm asking."
Yankees manager Aaron Boone, who wore a "Black Lives Matter" T-shirt for his pregame Zoom call with the media prior to Opening Night, said that he was "totally supportive" of the statement being made by Hicks and Stanton.