La Russa: 'I applaud and support' protests

October 30th, 2020

CHICAGO -- Tony La Russa said his views on protests during the national anthem have evolved since he stated in 2016 that he "would not sanction somebody taking a knee."

In that interview, La Russa questioned the sincerity of Colin Kaepernick, a former NFL quarterback and current civil rights activist, who, that year, first kneeled during the anthem. But the 76-year-old La Russa, who now is set to begin his second stint as White Sox manager, explained during his introductory news conference Thursday how his thinking on the subject has changed.

“I know in 2016 when the first issue occurred, my initial instincts were all about respecting the flag and the anthem and what America stands for,” La Russa said. “A lot has gone on in a very healthy way since 2016, and not only do I respect, but I applaud the awareness that has come into not just society but especially in sports.

“If you talk about baseball specifically, I applaud and support the fact they are now addressing, identifying the injustices, especially on the racial side. As long as it’s peacefully protested and sincere -- and what I’m learning more and more, like with the Players Alliance and especially with the White Sox -- when your protests actually have action-oriented results, the way you are going to impact, make things better, I’m all for it.”

La Russa was then asked how he's able to evaluate the sincerity of someone who chooses to protest.

“You look at actions,” La Russa said. “Words are words. I would look at actions and what I’m seeing. One of the reasons I’m so encouraged by what I’ve seen the last bunch of years, how players are backing up their words with actions. They are not just speaking the speak.”

Eight White Sox players and coaches knelt during the national anthem prior to the 2020 season opener against the Twins at Guaranteed Rate Field in support of the fight for social justice. That included shortstop Tim Anderson, who serves as a member of the Players Alliance active player advisory board. White Sox executive vice president Kenny Williams also serves on an advisory committee for the Players Alliance.