San Francisco Giants manager Gabe Kapler announced Friday that he would not be taking the field for the playing of the national anthem “until I feel better about the direction of our country.”
Kapler’s decision to not partake in anthem festivities comes in the wake of the horrific school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, that left 21 people, including 19 children, dead. Fellow MLB managers have been largely supportive of Kapler, but the most accomplished member of the coaching fraternity expressed some issue with the Giants manager’s stance.
“I think he’s exactly right to be — which a lot of us, who isn’t? — concerned about what’s happening in our country. In every direction we go there’s a lot of concern. He’s right there,” Chicago White Sox manager Tony La Russa said of Kapler.
“Where I disagree is that the flag and the anthem are not appropriate places to try to voice your objections. I think you go directly to the causes that really bothers you about the direction of the country.”
The 77-year-old Baseball Hall of Famer said he likes and has “great respect” for Kapler, but that in his view, such a demonstration is disrespectful to members and veterans of the United States Armed Forces.
“If you talk to any serviceman that put their life on the line, when they’re out and around … some of their courage comes from what the flag means to them and when they hear the anthem,” La Russa said. “So to me, it isn’t the flag and the anthem. But you want to point out and say ‘I’m not going to … I won’t draw attention, but I’m not …’ I think it’s a mistake. I think Gabe, it’s easier to … I think it makes more sense to figure out which of those issues and speak about the ones he didn’t like and what he’ll do about it. But I’ll say it, I have great respect for the person. I like him, and I think he’s right. But it’s not the flag and it’s not the anthem.”
La Russa said he was moved watching a scene in a documentary about the 1992 “Dream Team.” As they stood for the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” following their Olympic championship in Barcelona, several of the biggest names in basketball history teared up and later spoke about the pride they had playing for their country and hearing the anthem played.
“I thought, ‘Man, that’s what the anthem is. That’s what the flag is.’ It’s all that’s right in this country and you’re right to dislike and protest whatever you want to. But it ain’t the flag and it ain’t the anthem. That’s my answer. I agree there’s a lot wrong, but I would never not stand up for the anthem or salute the flag.”
La Russa said that’s his opinion for every individual in the United States, not just Kapler.
He concluded: “You need to understand — maybe just because I’m older. And I’ve been around veterans more than the average person. You need to understand what the veterans think when they hear the anthem or see they see the flag. And the cost they paid and their families paid.
“And if you truly understand that, I think it’s impossible not to salute the flag and listen to the anthem.”
La Russa, a three-time World Series champion and the second-winningest manager of all time, stressed he respects Kapler “personally and professionally” and noted “how much I agree with him. There’s a lot of problems in this country that need to be addressed.”
“But I wouldn’t do that,” he said.
La Russa was hardly the only manager to weigh in on Kapler’s actions.
Texas Rangers manager Chris Woodward said Kapler was “brave” for what he is doing.
New York Mets manager Buck Showalter said he respected “how Gabe feels and the way he’s going about it.”
Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, who called out lawmakers earlier in the week, said Kapler “is very passionate about things he believes in and that’s his way of protesting …
“I don’t think any of us are happy with what’s going on in our country. I do respect people using whatever platforms they have to address that.”
Contributing: Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Tony La Russa takes some issue with Gabe Kapler national anthem stance