Ori­oles’ Jones steps into the de­bate over the na­tional an­them

Baltimore Sun - - FRONT PAGE - By Ed­uardo A. Encina

BOS­TON — Ori­oles out­fielder Adam Jones said he would never con­sider not stand­ing for the na­tional an­them be­fore a game. His fa­ther spent 22 years in the Navy and his brother was also in the mil­i­tary, so he will al­ways show re­spect to the flag and the an­them.

But as one of the best-known AfricanAmer­i­can play­ers in Ma­jor League Base­ball, he un­der­stands why San Fran­cisco 49ers quar­ter­back Colin Kaeper­nick has cho­sen not to stand for the an­them.

And Jones has cho­sen to stand be­side Kaeper­nick in his own way. On Mon­day, Jones told a na­tional pub­li­ca­tion that base­ball play­ers have not taken a social stance be­cause of the racial de­mo­graph­ics of the league, which lean white — at least for Amer­i­cans.

Kaeper­nick gained na­tional at­ten­tion af­ter the 49ers’ third pre­sea­son game on Aug. 26 when he sat for the an­them. He Adam Jones

“I stand for some­thing dif­fer­ent than the an­them.”

was asked about it af­ter the game and spoke about racial in­jus­tice in the coun­try and said he was sup­port­ing those who were op­pressed. He has since kneeled dur­ing the an­them in an at­tempt not to show dis­re­spect to the coun­try’s mil­i­tary per­son­nel. Other Na­tional Foot­ball League play­ers have fol­lowed him, in­clud­ing at sev­eral sea­son-open­ing games Sun­day. Ath­letes in other sports have joined in, but none from base­ball.

Be­fore the Ori­oles played the Bos­ton Red Sox on Mon­day night, the 31-year-old Jones stood for the an­them — a pregame rou­tine that is a part of ev­ery base­ball game at ev­ery level — head held high and his cap over his heart. He clapped for the color guard sta­tioned in cen­ter field af­ter the an­them.

“I stand for that for mul­ti­ple rea­sons. … I stand for more than one rea­son than just that,” Jones said. “The Amer­i­can flag and na­tional an­them and all that, when you dig deeper, that part of it is not why I [de­cide to] stand. But also I stand for some­thing dif­fer­ent than the an­them.

“We are Amer­i­cans. Our First Amend­ment right. When we speak out, we get back­lash. I thought we had the First Amend­ment. So I am us­ing my First Amend­ment [right] and I’m us­ing it in a re­spect­ful man­ner. I just hope peo­ple ed­u­cate them­selves on the process. This is a long process.”

Jones didn’t hold back in a USA To­day ar­ti­cle Mon­day in which he said that base­ball hasn’t seen play­ers protest­ing the an­them be­cause base­ball “is a white man’s sport” that con­sists of just 8 per­cent African-Amer­i­can play­ers.

“Of course, and as I said, the head­line grabbed strong at­ten­tion,” Jones said. “Peo­ple just are think­ing, ‘Let’s just see the ar­ti­cle [and] what Adam’s go­ing to talk about.’ They’re go­ing to say, ‘Oh, Adam [is a] black man talk­ing about white peo­ple. Let’s see where this is go­ing.’

“It al­ready al­tered peo­ple’s minds. There’s noth­ing about me racist. I just stated the sim­ple fact. Base­ball is num­bers. It’s 8 per­cent black. I didn’t make that up. In foot­ball, bas­ket­ball, the num­bers are in the 60s and 70s. These aren’t made-up num­bers. It just is what it is. I’m part of the 8 per­cent.”

Jones has been very ac­tive in the Bal­ti­more com­mu­nity, spend­ing al­most his en­tire eight-year Ori­oles ca­reer donat­ing time and money to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Met­ro­pol­i­tan Bal­ti­more and work­ing with MLB’s Re­viv­ing Base­ball in In­ner Cities pro­gram.

Last week, he was named the Ori­oles’ rep­re­sen­ta­tive for the an­nual Roberto Cle­mente Award, given to the MLB player who “best ex­em­pli­fies the game of base­ball, sports­man­ship, com­mu­nity in­volve­ment and the in­di­vid­ual’s con­tri­bu­tion to his team.” Last year, he was named Marvin Miller Man of the Year, an award given by the play­ers’ union to “one player for his com­bi­na­tion of on-field per­for­mance and com­mu­nity ded­i­ca­tion.”

Jones’ on-field ac­co­lades — five-time All-Star, four-time Gold Glove win­ner and long the face of the Ori­oles’ fran­chise — have al­lowed him a fo­rum, and he said he’s cho­sen to use it.

“At the end of the day, I’m one of the most well-known black play­ers in base­ball,” Jones said. “There’s what, 58, 59 of us, and I’m one of the most known. For me, it was the right time and I know all those guys have spo­ken up about it at some point in time.

“My big­gest thing about it is that so­ci­ety doesn’t mind us help­ing out the hood and the in­ner cities, but they have a prob­lem when we speak about the hood and the in­ner cities. I don’t un­der­stand that part.”

Jones’ com­ments to USA To­day came on the first NFL Sun­day of the sea­son, and he said he didn’t plan on that, but on the spur of the mo­ment, felt it was the right time to share his opin­ion.

“Is ev­ery­body go­ing to agree with what I said?” Jones said. “No. Be­cause why? Be­cause I’m stick­ing up for peo­ple who don’t have the voice. For­tu­nately, I have the voice, I have the reach. I think it was the time for it to be said. It was the per­fect time. ... I don’t take any­thing back. I think I said it very elo­quently, and I don’t think I showed any dis­re­spect to any­body or any per­son.”

Ori­oles man­ager Buck Showal­ter sup­ported Jones Mon­day, say­ing that he has earned the right to ex­press his opin­ions. Showal­ter has long pointed to Jones as one of the team’s lead­ers, and his words dur­ing last year’s ri­ots were seen as help­ing Bal­ti­more start to heal dur­ing a dif­fi­cult time.

“I think ev­ery­body here would feel that way as far as re­spect­ing his right,” Showal­ter said.

“It’s the same right peo­ple have to crit­i­cize things. They might crit­i­cize his stand. They might crit­i­cize my de­ci­sions ev­ery night. We fought so hard for these rights to be able to do that in our coun­try.”

Still, Jones has seen that his com­ments weren’t wel­comed by some on social me­dia. Some have said that mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar ath­letes shouldn’t weigh in on social or racial is­sues.

“That just comes with it,” Jones said. “I’ve given my last 13 years of this game to base­ball, ev­ery ounce of blood, sweat and tears and I have more. … I think they for­got the first 18 years of my life was not spent mak­ing a lot of money.

“More than half of my life was liv­ing — I don’t want to say in poverty — but liv­ing in the in­ner city. They don’t look at that. They just look at now you’re mak­ing all this money.”

Jones said he’s re­ceived a lot of pos­i­tive feed­back around the game for his com­ments but ex­pects con­tin­ued back­lash.

“You guys have been around me and seen me evolve as a man, hus­band, player, fa­ther — you know I’m not just speak­ing out of the side of my­neck just be­cause I have a fo­rum,” Jones said. “I’m do­ing it be­cause I un­der­stand. … There’s go­ing to be back­lash, of course there is. Be­cause peo­ple don’t like the truth, [and] I just gave the truth.”

Adam Jones

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