Following the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, among others, Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Andrew McCutchen felt empowered to use his platform to find a way that could unite people and bring change.
“It all began honestly, with a conversation that me and my wife were having just about what, what I felt…what I wanted to do, and having a platform that I have, what did I want to do going into the season. At that time, I felt the only thing that I could do was kneel,” McCutchen told the collective media, including Phillies Nation’s Tim Kelly, Friday. “Me personally, I felt that one thing that I could do to show how my reasoning and my emotions and how I feel was, was by kneeling. And after really giving it some thought and really talking to my wife about asking the question of ‘why are we kneeling?’ You know and saying, we’re kneeling because we were asking for change.”
It was McCutchen’s wife, Maria, who convinced her husband that he could do more than just kneeling to show unity.
“In her saying, ‘well, don’t you think you can do more?’ And I didn’t quite understand what the more was at the time, but opening the door, to be able to have a conversation of what that more could be,” McCutchen said.
McCutchen, 33, did just that. Along with his wife, McCutchen helped create a moment that became a powerful moment during the Opening Day ceremonies across baseball.
Players and coaches from all teams stood next to each other, socially distancing, and held a long piece of black fabric for an alternative way of linking arms to show unity. Followed was the playing of the couple’s speech over the speakers and jumbotron, which was voiced by actor Morgan Freeman.
“It’s everyone linking together unified…standing for each other and having a moment for us as baseball players, which is separate from Major League Baseball, which is separate from the anthem. Having a moment for us that links our unity together,” McCutchen said. “So that’s kind of what transpired and, of course, with the speech from Morgan Freeman, where he reads, and it overall I felt it’s a really good moment that I cherish.”
When asked if he has sat down with current and past teammates to have conversations surrounding this, McCutchen provided an open and positive response.
“We’ve all had our conversations,” McCutchen said. “It all began because we were open with each other. We sat down and were able to have an understanding of one another but it first took us pulling the chair up next to each other and saying, ‘look this is going to be uncomfortable but we have to have this conversation. We have to talk about this because I want to understand where you’re coming from and I want you to understand where I’m coming from.’”
Though these conversations might be uncomfortable for some, McCutchen made a point of emphasis saying that they are important to have because that is the only way of making the world a better place.
“That ultimately is like, that’s the point.” McCutchen said. “The point is, this is what we need to have. We literally have to have open dialogue, we have to talk. Now, we can’t just jump to conclusions without having a conversation with each other. We can choose to think the way we want to think. But if we really want to have an understanding, we have to have that conversation.”
McCutchen said he commends former Phillies manager Gabe Kapler who was the first MLB manager to take a knee during the national anthem on Monday in an exhibition game against the Oakland Athletics.
“It means it’s good because ultimately, that’s what we want. We want guys to and I’m not saying I want you to kneel. No, what I’m saying is, I want you to realize what’s happening within our nation, and hope that you feel the same way that I feel after we have these conversations and be able to stand next to me and say, ‘look I stand by you and I want to, I want to be involved.’ And ultimately, that’s what I hope is going to continue to happen.”
“That was something that he felt meant a lot to him and now it’s about being able to go what’s next? Like, let’s tackle this together. You know, I commend him for that. I know Kapler enough to know that, he’s not just saying that to say, he’s gonna be about it.”
The longtime Pittsburgh Pirate mentioned that he has had extensive conversations with his former manager over the phone and text about the moment and understanding of what McCutchen and other players were doing as a whole about the matter.
McCutchen said he doesn’t want this to be just a one-time gesture, but a moment that can lead to showing what change, unity and equality can look like and be seen by all through open dialogue.
“I think it disperses into the communities and to things that mean something to each other and to each one of us personally. You know for what we’re doing out there on the field, it’s a metaphor for realizing that we stand with each other, we stand for what we’re going for,” McCutchen said. “I stand where I stand with you, to the guy to my left and my right. And I want to support you in any way that I can. This is our moment. This is us, and I have your support. And so what do we need to do to be able to help you so like that’s how we make the change and that’s what I’m hoping transpires from this.”
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