MLB: The black 200-yard cloth extended along the foul lines, beginning at one edge of the outfield, circling around the home plate and running to the diamond’s other side.

A Rarity for M.L.B. on Opening Day: Support for Black Lives Matter

This was performed by coaches and players from both the Washington Nationals and the Yankees, all spread out, played over the stadium speakers as a statement delivered by the actor Morgan Freeman.

And then they all kneeled for 60 seconds of silence — an idea accepted by the Yankees in a team meeting the night before the season opener on Thursday and then shared with the Nationals. Both sides stood again for the national anthem.

This was not the N.B.A., or W.N.B.A., or N.F.L., where athletes protested for years before and after the National Anthem. Yet what happened on opening night was noteworthy for Major League Baseball, a league that was reluctant to discuss social problems openly relative to many of its peers.

A Black Lives Matter video created by the Players Alliance – a new charity composed of 150 current and former Black baseball players — was featured on the screen of the stadium before the recorded message and the kneeling. The video, first unveiled last month, included, among others, the Yankees celebrities Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge and Aaron Hicks.

As per a release, the idea for the fabric and the moment of solidarity came from Andrew McCutchen, a former outfielder for Philadelphia Phillies, and arranged by players without the participation of M.L.B. They came to M.L.B. to confirm the efforts, and similar cloths were delivered to the 14 other stadiums on Thursday and Friday that would host an opening game.

The Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants performed a similar protest in the second opening night game — though the Dodgers athlete Mookie Betts and other Giants knelt even during the anthem.

“This moment is important for all MLB players to unite and show support for one another as we begin the 2020 baseball season,” McCutchen said in a statement. “Our league makeup is unique, with nearly one third of players being foreign-born.

A Rarity for M.L.B. on Opening Day: Support for Black Lives Matter
(AP Photo/Aaron Doster)

“No matter where we are from we are all facing battles for social justice and equality, the concerns of keeping our families and communities safe during times of a global pandemic, and facing the same challenges with the return to baseball. This is our time to stand together as one before we take the field as competitors.”

McCutchen also appreciated MLB for endorsing the players’ message during the pre-game festivities, and for “extending this unfiltered platform.”

In his own statement, MLB stated he had a “open and meaningful dialog” with the Players Association, individual players and the players’ union about how players should show their support for causes of social justice and diversity when the league began playing following a four-month delay to the season.

M.L.B. issued shirts across the front which said “Black Lives Matter” for players to wear during batting training. (Yankees Manager Aaron Boone wore one too.) They also offered players the option of wearing a patch on their jerseys that reads “Black Lives Matter” or “United for Change.” The Yankees wore both on Thursday.

Teams were permitted to place a “BLM” stencil on their home ballparks, which was done by the Nationals and Dodgers. The league also removed season restrictions so players could decorate their cleats with “social justice messages and causes.”

A 254-foot-long “Black Lives Matter” banner was displayed outside Fenway Park by the Boston Red Sox, who opened their season Friday.

A Rarity for MLB on Opening Day: Support for Black Lives Matter
Kathryn Riley/Getty Images

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