One of America’s top pro women’s softball teams is in an uproar after a tweet by their general manager regarding the national anthem.
The now-deleted tweet by Connie May, general manager of the Houston-based Scrap Yard Dawgs, included the Twitter handle for President Donald Trump as it noted the team’s players were standing for the anthem and respecting the flag. Former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick and other athletes have kneeled during the anthem to protest racial injustice, angering Trump.
The fallout has been swift.
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All 18 Scrap Yard players, including some members of the US national team, have walked out and say they won’t play for the team. The USSSA Pride, another independent team, said its games will be postponed until further notice in support of the Dawgs’ players. Triple Crown Sports and a group of the top youth fastpitch teams in Texas have agreed to pull a Fourth of July Tournament from Scrap Yard’s facility.
And Dawgs coach Mike Steuerwald said the situation “probably severed the relationship between ownership and the front office and myself.”
Dawgs players Cat Osterman and Monica Abbott — both members of Team USA — are among those who have criticized May’s tweet. Attempts to reach Scrap Yard and May this week were unsuccessful.
AJ Andrews, one of two Black players for the Pride, said she is concerned about Black people dying in police custody and is energized by the protests that have taken place around the world since the death of George Floyd while in the custody of Minneapolis police.
She said the Pride players were also angry that their choice to stand was politicized.
“Any statement anyone wants to make regarding the national anthem — it’s their right to take their own personal stand,” Andrews said. “It’s no one else’s right to take that for them. So to have someone shift that and have it come out in a statement that does not represent you as a person — you feel violated.”
Stokes, one of two Black players for the Dawgs, said May’s tweet was hurtful and insensitive, especially given the extra attention the world has been paying to racial issues for the past month. She felt the two had built a solid relationship since the team drafted her in 2016.
“I thought our relationship was really close,” Stokes said. “I thought she really understood me.”
Stokes posted her feelings on social media on Tuesday. She said May reached out to her Tuesday, but nothing changed because she felt May lacked contrition. Stokes said offers to educate May had been made before.
“It’s all about the approach,” Stokes said. “I need an apology, and then we can move forward.”
On Wednesday, several players shared a tweet titled THIS IS US with a unified message of commitment to support the Black community and help educate people on ways to create change.
Steuerwald, who is an assistant coach at Syracuse, said he stands fully behind the players.
“I’m proud of them for speaking their mind and I’ve felt that they have done it in a very respectful manner,” he said. “Even throughout their conversations with our GM in a heated, emotional moment, it wasn’t derogatory the things that were said, and it wasn’t defaming in any way. It was addressing the points of contention there with the tweet and things that they felt kind of betrayed by.”
Triple Crown Sports says it will play its July 1-5 tournament elsewhere in the Houston area.
“We believe sensitivity and tone are important ingredients of respect,” the organization said. “Through sports, we can help unify the many voices that deserve support in their right to protest and call for needed change as millions of people seek a new path for justice.”
Stokes said the players from the Dawgs might play against the Pride on Saturday, but without the Scrap Yard name. Beyond that, they don’t know what the future holds. Andrews said games are secondary right now.
“I think when you find matters that are bigger than your sport, you find matters that are bigger than what takes place in your life, you tend to find common ground whether you are a rival or not,” she said. “Allyship is really strong in softball right now. It’s amazing to see everyone come together the way they did, with the immediacy that they had.”