Stanton And Hicks Take Us Beyond The Vacuum Of 1968 Raised Fists

Stanton and Hicks tweak Trump (AP)

Stanton and Hicks, Carlos and Smith – athletes from different generations – each with a message to send. Black Lives Matter and Black Power – images matter.

Carlos and Smith - 1968 aised fists as means of protest (Washington Post)

Stanton and Hicks, Carlos and Smith – pictures are worth a thousand words. Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Hicks, Yankees teammates in a kneeling position as the National Anthem was played, set against the raised fists of John Carlos and Tommie Smith at the 1968 Summer Olympics.

The Way Donald Trump Sees It (arktimes.com)
The Way Donald Trump Sees It (arktimes.com)

A half-century has passed, and we are still grappling with the same issues, albeit in a different setting.

Ironically, though, there is little difference in the rhetoric we hear from the top leaders of our nation.

Then-President Richard Nixon referred to the Vietnam War protestors as “bums and subversives”, and challenged the “Silent Majority” to join him in bringing Law and Order to the burning cities across America.

Today, Donald Trump doesn’t need to wear a mask when he openly decries those “sons of bitches” who have the gall to kneel when our National Anthem is played at sporting events.

Are Stanton And Hicks Sons Of Bitches Too, Donald

Cynics will dismiss Stanton and Hicks because of the lavish lifestyle afforded to them because of their God-given talent to play a child’s game and to be handsomely rewarded for doing so – what do they know?

Imagery Ingrained In Our History (NYU)
Imagery Ingrained In Our History (NYU)

But who among us, though, can say with life experiences we know what it’s like to live in poverty and drug-infested neighborhoods where gun violence is just a few steps from the entry to your high-rise in the Bronx?

And yet, Stanton and Hicks, among others throughout MLB, have the will to stand up for what they believe to be true.

Even in the face of knowing the “punishment” extolled on John Carlos, and Tommie Smith led to their medals being stripped as many in our nation rejoiced in seeing them put back “in their place”.

Demonstrating it’s never too late to correct a wrong, a step was taken in September 2019 to return the medals earned to both Carlos and Smith.

Chronicled eloquently by Nancy Armour for USA Today, both sides seem to have turned the page.

Still active, though in different ways today, John Carlos reflected: “Hey man, we were wrong. We were off-base in terms of humanity relative to the human rights era.”

More to the moment, Stanton and Hicks both risk suffering the wrath of Yankees Team President Randy Levine, whose close-knit ties to Donald Trump, together with a penchant for speaking out of turn on behalf of the Yankees is a story all its own.

Stanton And Hicks: Beyond The Imagery Is An Introspective Message

Whereas the Black Power movement was doomed almost from the moment of its onset, Black Lives Matter is gentler in its tone and, therefore, more acceptable as an American Voice.

And while we witness the fringes of the movement resorting to violence that reminds of Detroit, New York, and Los Angeles in the summer of 1968, many of us can separate those elements from the calls with a simple but elegant message that says – just take a moment and hear what we have to say.

And it’s with that spirit that Lindsey Adler writes a compelling piece for The Athletic that affords Stanton and Hicks to directly and introspectively explain what’s behind their decision to move outside the box.

Their dual request, however, is not complicated – Hear us out.

Do We Hear More Than The Words?

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For both Stanton and Hicks, their words typically speak to the pitch that got them out in their last at-bat, or their thoughts on what it’s like to travel by bus during a pandemic, as opposed to a chartered plane.

Yet, Giancarlo Stanton was able to express with these words saying he is protesting in support of “basic human rights in America. It’s not equal, and it’s just for equality and for us all to have a fair shake”.

“There’s a lot of things in the system that could be changed, and it’s just a way to bring light to that.”

Giancarlo Stanton - The belief in 2020 (Photo: New York Post)
Giancarlo Stanton – The belief in 2020 (Photo: New York Post)

That’s it. It’s the stuff that could be made from the speeches of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy before they were struck down by an assassin’s bullet in that same dreadful year – 1968.

Aaron Hicks looked emotional as he said he is kneeling because “I’m a Black man living in America. I feel like, for me, I should be judged by my character and not my skin tone. Growing up, that’s kind of what happened. I felt (kneeling) was right to do.”

A Time To Listen, A Time To Heal

I’ll leave the rhetoric to those who are better equipped to express how good it feels to see Major League Baseball, as well as individual teams, release players from the fear of retribution for exercising their rights to (peaceful) freedom of speech.

Randy Levine, Yankees President (USA Today)
Randy Levine, Yankees President (USA Today)

ABC7ny.com recounts that San Francisco Giants manager Gabe Kapler became the first coach in the majors to take a knee during the anthem, doing so alongside several of his players before an exhibition game against the Athletics in Oakland as a means to speak out against racial injustice.

And it’s Yankees‘ General Manager Brian Cashman speaking to his players and coaches (if not Randy Levine) who made his point very clear in saying he would support any Yankee who decided to kneel. Later, he explained in more detail:

“The great part of America is there are different ways to express yourself and different platforms to utilize how you express yourself and in some cases that happens to be kneeling during the anthem,” he said. “I support the expression of the ability for somebody to protest in the way they see fit.”

What’s Next?

Today, the hotspot of protests is not Los Angeles, Detroit, or New York. Tucked away in the upper left corner of a U.S. map is Portland, Oregon, where President Trump’s deployment of federal agents is fueling the unrest in Portland, where protests have continued for over 50 consecutive days.

The story behind Black Lives Matter has “legs” that extend far beyond the now-typical 24-hour news cycle.

Stanton and Hicks may or may not continue to express themselves on the field. Teammates may or may not join them in ways that go beyond DJ LeMahieu‘s pat on the shoulder sign of support.

But one thing is sure. Major League Baseball is taking notice, and like many of us is listening. And should Stanton or Hicks win the A.L. Batting Title, the award will not be stripped from them.

“If You Are Not Part Of The Solution To A Problem, Then You Are Part Of The Problem” (Eldridge Cleaver – Soul On Ice”

Martin Luther King once said (paraphrasing), “The white moderate” was more of an obstacle than “the Ku Klux Klanner”. If he were alive today, would his words be the same?

As one of the white moderates King refers to, all I know is that I’m trying to process the thought of Aaron Hicks when he says (paraphrasing) he looks in the mirror. He says to himself – I am a Black American – when I have never had the thought to say – I am a White American.

<a rel=Mookie Betts, Dodgers All-Star takes a knee</a>
Mookie Betts, Dodgers All-Star takes a knee

There’s something there that takes us to the heart of the matter – more than just Black Lives Matter.

I’m done with all the political rhetoric and the washed-up grind it out politicians who utter the same old words that are mindful only of the State they live in and what their perception is of what voters want to hear.

Stanton and Hicks represent a new generation, and Martin Luther King would be proud of them right now.

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Author: stevecontursi

I am an amateur writer with a passion for baseball and all things Yankees and Mets.