Orioles’ Jones steps into the debate over the national anthem
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.”