Saturday Sports: Colin Kaepernick, Red Sox
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
And it's time for sports.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
SIMON: Remember when sports was a diversion? Not now. Sports are a mirror to the real world everywhere this tumultuous week, certainly following Charlottesville football, basketball and baseball. NPR's Tom Goldman joins us. Tom, thanks for being with us.
TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Thank you, Scott.
SIMON: Let's start with the NFL. Last year, Colin Kaepernick notably took a knee during pre-game national anthems and set off a controversy. He still has not been signed by a team this year. But several players have essentially picked up where he left off, including last night in Seattle.
GOLDMAN: Yeah, that's right. Defensive lineman Michael Bennett - he's been to the Pro Bowl twice. He won a Super Bowl with Seattle. He sat during the anthem before the Seahawks game versus Minnesota last night. And it was the second straight game he's done that. And he says he'll do it all season to protest social injustice and to promote equality for all citizens. Now, what was striking last night was who joined him. Seattle center Justin Britt, who is white, stood next to Bennett with his hand on Bennett's shoulder, apparently answering Bennett's call earlier in the week for white players to join in these protests. Up to now, it's been African-American players, who make up nearly 70 percent of the NFL.
SIMON: And this kind of show of solidarity happened the night before, didn't it?
GOLDMAN: Yeah, it did. Chris Long, a white defensive end with the Philadelphia Eagles - he put his arm around teammate Malcolm Jenkins, who's black, when Jenkins raised his fist during the anthem. You know, Scott, Michael Bennett said earlier in the week, when you bring somebody who doesn't have to be part of the conversation - making himself vulnerable - when that happens, things will really take a jump. Now, we will see if the conversation changes. But in a week of painful division between races that you have been talking about a lot on the show, certainly, these two moments resonated. Certainly, it did for Bennett, who said after last night's game that what Justin Britt did was a very emotional moment - to have that kind of solidarity with someone from a different part of America.
SIMON: And baseball hasn't been the staging ground for a lot of this, by contrast. But tell us about what's going on in Boston now.
GOLDMAN: Yeah, well, Red Sox owner John Henry this week proposed renaming famed Yawkey Way, the street outside of Fenway Park named after longtime Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey. Now, Henry said in an interview he was haunted by Yawkey's racist legacy. The Red Sox were the last team to integrate in the majors in 1959. Now, this, of course, comes at a time when there's a lot of debate about removing or moving Confederate statues in the South. There will be resistance to what Henry's proposing. The Yawkey name is steeped in tradition. And the Yawkey Trust is a charitable foundation that has spread money and goodwill all around Boston and New England. So, Scott, this is not an easy issue.
SIMON: I want to say something because, you know, of course, I wrote a book about Jackie Robinson.
SIMON: The Red Sox have invited me to an event they have for his birthday every January, where Boston area students come, and they learn that the Red Sox could've signed Jackie Robinson a couple of months before Brooklyn did but didn't just because of the color of his skin. And I've got to say I admire how Mr. Henry - his partners, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino, who just retired - have really worked to acknowledge the shameful legacy of the Red Sox - and in a way that really just brings honor to the team now.
GOLDMAN: Yeah, that's a good point. And, you know, shameful legacy - complicated legacy. And, you know, we were reminded of that a couple of months ago, certainly, when Adam Jones of the Baltimore Orioles said he encountered racist taunts from some fans at Fenway Park. So this will be an interesting chapter in a long, long history.
SIMON: Quick question - Giancarlo Stanton have a chance to hit - what? - 60, 61, 62 home runs?
GOLDMAN: Well, the way he's going, he does. But he traditionally cools down later in the season. So we'll see if he gets to the 61 by Roger Maris in 1961, which many purists consider still the single-season home run mark.
SIMON: That's right. NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman, thanks so much for being with us. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.