One of Major League Baseball’s top pitchers says his Christian faith and his love for his teammates compelled him to wear a Black Lives Matter shirt as a show of unity.
St. Louis veteran Adam Wainwright and the rest of the Cardinals wore Black Lives Matter shirts prior to Friday’s season opener, sparking some pushback and even criticism that Wainwright wasn’t being true to his faith.
But Wainwright – a three-time All-Star – said it was an easy decision after hearing from Cardinals coaches and players who are black.
“As a Christian man, my job first and foremost is to love my neighbor and to love my teammates and to love my friends and my family the best way I know how,” Wainwright told the Belleville News-Democrat. “We had a big team meeting the other day, and Dexter [Fowler] and Willie [McGee] and Jack [Flaherty] spoke – just going over some of the things that they’ve felt their entire lives. And they looked at us and they said, ‘Hey, it would really mean a lot to us if y’all would join us in this movement.’ And you don’t have to tell me anything else besides that. When my teammate looks at me and says he’s in need, he needs me to stand up for him, that’s great.”
Wainwright is known around the league as an outspoken Christian. This year, he led an online Bible study that involved thousands of people.
The meaning behind the Black Lives Matter shirt, he said, was simple.
“People read into that a lot, but I can tell you what that shirt meant to me was not having to do with anything outside of what’s in this clubhouse. And what’s inside of us as human beings. That had everything to do with supporting my black brothers and sisters around the country and especially my teammates and my close friends and my son,” he said, referencing an adopted child who is black.
“These times are interesting times, but what we need to do is look at the good in this and not what could potentially be the bad,” Wainwright said. “By wearing that shirt, by wearing this patch, by being there for Dexter and for Willie and for Jack and for Jordan [his son] and for whoever else is going through this, it’s given me a lot of opportunity (sic) to share my faith in different ways that I never thought would be possible. People are coming at me pretty hard on Twitter.
“And I understand some of it, but at the end of the day, for me, the Lord blessed us with faith, hope and love, and the greatest of these his love, and that means a lot to me. … This movement is not about me. … It’s not about anybody but the people who are struggling with what they’re struggling with. I understand, and listen, I understand people want to get mad and people want to cause divisiveness. I understand where everyone’s coming from. Everyone has good intentions, I hope. But for me, and for what I needed to do for this clubhouse and my teammates, was be there for them and to love them well. And I feel like I’m doing that.”
Wainwright said he’ll kneel before the national anthem but will rise when the song is played.
“I plan to … kneel with my teammates before the anthem, [and] I’ll do so with a clear conscience. And I’ll rise and put my hand over my heart like I always do and look up at that flag with the greatest reverence I could possibly have for it,” Wainwright told the News-Democrat. “I’m tied for first with loving this country. I think it’s the greatest with probably millions of people who feel the same way. I had two grandfathers that fought in the war. … I’m secure in what the Lord is telling me.”
He has defended his actions on Twitter.
“Praise Jesus that I get an opportunity to support my brothers and sisters that have a different skin color than me,” he wrote. “I will try to always show up for my teammates and friends in their time of need. #andthegreatestislove Now let's play ball!!!”
Praise Jesus that I get an opportunity to support my brothers and sisters that have a different skin color than me. I will try to always show up for my teammates and friends in their time of need. #andthegreatestislove— Adam Wainwright (@UncleCharlie50) July 24, 2020
Now let's play ball!!!
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Scott Kane/Stringer
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.