Mookie Betts’ Dodgers debut was a memorable one, but not entirely due to his efforts on the diamond.
Well before igniting Los Angeles’ five-run outburst in the seventh inning against the San Francisco Giants, Betts made a powerful statement by kneeling during the national anthem. All members of the Dodgers and Giants knelt in a demonstration of solidarity prior to the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” but Betts was the only Dodger player who remained on a knee for the anthem.
Betts’ demonstration came roughly four years after he said he always would stand for the national anthem out of respect for his father, Willie, who served as a member of the Air Force in the Vietnam War. Following LA’s 8-1 at Dodger Stadium, Betts explained his change of heart.
“I wasn’t educated,” Betts said, per ESPN’s Alden Gonzalez. “That’s my fault. I need to be educated on the situation. I know my dad served and I’ll never disrespect the flag, but there’s also gotta be change in the world, and kneeling has nothing to do with those who served our country.”
Betts continued: “I think kneeling is definitely something that shows we need change, but also I have to put some action into play as far as away from MLB. That’s my primary goal. Today was just to unify both sides and just to show that we are here for change.”
The four-time All-Star garnered plenty of praise on social media for his gesture prior to the Opening Day contest, as well as a salute from Alex Cora, who expressed he was “proud” of his former player.