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Yankees giving players freedom to be powerful social justice voice

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So much power potential in this 2020 Yankees lineup.

So much power potential, far more important, in this Yankees brand at this pivotal juncture.

Aaron Boone declared Thursday he’s just as on board with the latter as the former.

“If they want their voice to be heard on whatever the subject may be, we’re going to always encourage them to speak their minds and their heart,” the Yankees manager said on a Zoom call.

The subject at hand, of course, is race relations in the United States, with the May 25 killing of George Floyd while in custody of the Minneapolis police electrifying the country, sparking discussions about systemic racism and its countless tentacles.

Many Yankees players have engaged in those discussions — with Aaron Hicks, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, as well as the recently retired CC Sabathia (now a team adviser) participating in a terrific video, featuring a plethora of prominent African-American baseball players, supporting the Black Lives Matter movement.

“We’ve been told that our peaceful pleas were not made at the right time at the right place, in the right way,’’ a quartet of players, led by Judge, say to start the video, and that sure feels like a reference to former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, whom the National Football League disgracefully didn’t support when, in 2016, he began the trend of kneeling during the national anthem to call attention to police brutality and racial inequality.

Yankees
Aaron Boone talks Brian Cashman during Yankees spring training.Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

Hence we wonder: Will any Yankees of any background kneel during “The Star-Spangled Banner” before the Yankees and Nationals open the baseball season (assuming we make it that far) July 23 at Nationals Park? Will they convey their calls for equality in other ways, be it on their uniforms or via some other mode?

“We’ll see. We’ll have conversations,” Boone said. “I’m sure those things are very possible across [sports]. We’ve already seen those in different leagues. I’m sure that’s very much on the minds and hearts of several players.”

A fantastic ESPN.com story on former A’s catcher Bruce Maxwell, the one baseball player who knelt during the anthem (in 2017), reported the Yankees “subtly discourag[ed]” Judge from being publicly vocal about racial issues. Boone said, “As far as I know, that’s absolutely false. In fact, if anything, we encourage our guys.”

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, citing Judge’s quiet nature, said, “We have not even had a conversation with [Judge] about that. We haven’t encouraged or discouraged him.” Judge couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

Since Floyd’s death, “We have talked about [racial issues] throughout the organization, within our team, within our club, individually with different guys as well,” Boone said. “It is something that I think is an important conversation and … is obviously a huge conversation in our country right now. But it is a conversation we hope to advance and be better for, and hopefully we’re having difficult conversations amongst each other all the time.”

All players using their platform to speak to these issues would enhance the value of this coronavirus-shortened season, which is off to a shaky start with testing problems, positives tests and guys opting out. Already, Reds future Hall of Famer Joey Votto, who is white and Canadian, generated positive attention for wearing a Black Lives Matter shirt while taking batting practice. The Yankees’ platform expands the widest. A statement from a star Yankee carries more weight than one from anywhere else.

If no such statements come, then no judgments here; putting yourself out there comes with the natural, potential consequences of social media venom. Consider this more curiosity and support, just as Boone publicly professed for his players as they prepare for this unprecedented season in this unprecedented time.

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