The Twin Cities community has been brought into focus in 2020 as the epicenter of the conversations and demonstrations surrounding racial injustice in the United States in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd in South Minneapolis on May 25.
Since then, the Twins' organization has made it a focus to take an active, visible role in the movement for social justice around Minneapolis and St. Paul. On Friday, 10 of their players and coaches made a visible show of their support for social justice by taking a knee during the national anthem prior to the season opener against the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field.
Twins manager Rocco Baldelli and bench coach Mike Bell knelt alongside their players during the anthem. They were joined in kneeling by first-base coach Tommy Watkins, who wrote an emotional blog post in the aftermath of the Floyd killing about an incident of racial profiling by police in his hometown of Fort Myers, Fla. Hitting coach Edgar Varela stood at Watkins' side with a hand on his shoulder.
Byron Buxton, LaMonte Wade Jr, Trevor May, Taylor Rogers, Sergio Romo, Tyler Duffey and Aaron Whitefield also took a knee during the anthem. Zack Littell knelt during the prolonged moment of silence before the game as players on both teams held a piece of 200-yard black fabric following a recorded narration by actor Morgan Freeman that emphasized equality and empathy.
"This hasn’t been just a conversation this week for our guys," Baldelli said before the game. "We’ve had a lot of active participants in that conversation. This conversation means an incredible amount to a number of our guys. I would say that both the Twins and in our clubhouse. ... We support every one of our players and our staff in every way. Our guys are there for each other.
"I’ve found that the more you look around and the more you converse with people, the more that you find a lot of common ground on a lot of different things, on a lot of different topics. And I find that a very beautiful thing."
The large number of Twins personnel was joined by several stars from the White Sox side in kneeling during the anthem, including Tim Anderson, José Abreu, Edwin Encarnación, Eloy Jiménez, Luis Robert and Lucas Giolito.
"I think there's nothing more that's representative of being here in this country and in this community and in this environment than having the ability to express your individual convictions," said president of baseball operations Derek Falvey. "I think our players did, and did it in a really respectful manner, as Rocco did as well. I think it was a powerful moment and a powerful tribute on a lot of levels to starting off this season using our platform appropriately."
The show of support for the social justice movement comes amid a flurry of action from the Twins' organization and franchise leadership in the area. Team owner Jim Pohlad and the Pohlad Family Foundation committed $25 million to racial justice in June, focused on rebuilding impacted communities in the Twin Cities and pushing for long-term structural change in coordination with local government and community leaders.
Later in June, the Twins also removed a statue of former owner Calvin Griffith from the plaza outside Target Field in response to racist comments he made in a 1978 speech in Waseca, Minn. Most recently, the Twins hosted a virtual panel on diversity in their front office on Tuesday, highlighting four Black employees' experiences in baseball. As part of that event, they announced a mentorship program with the goal of bringing more underrepresented minorities into the baseball community.