Baseball legend Jackie Robinson wasn’t only the first black player to make it to the big leagues, he was also an American patriot who served his nation during WWII. His widow, Rachel Robinson, does not believe he would’ve kneeled for the national anthem like Oakland A’s catcher Bruce Maxwell.
Robinson said she didn’t know for sure if he would have, but she said she thinks he probably would not have knelt.
She said, “I have no idea, but I doubt it.” When she was asked if he would have stood, Robinson said, “I think so. I don’t know.”
“That generation, it’s different. I don’t know, and it’s not fair for me to even speak of him since he’s been gone for quite a few years.”
That’s likely to surprise and not please the kneelers, but it makes perfect sense.
More on Jackie per PBS:
On April 15, 1947, at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, N.Y., Jack Roosevelt Robinson, at the age of 28, became the first African American to play for a major-league baseball team since the 1884 season, when Moses Fleetwood “Fleet” Walker played for the Toledo Blue Stockings between May 1 and Sept. 4. (William White, a student at Brown, played one game for the Providence Grays of the National League in 1879, hence technically breaking the color barrier.) Before a crowd of 26,623 spectators (of whom approximately 14,000 are thought to have been black), though he got no hits, Robinson scored a run to contribute to the Dodgers’ 5-3 victory over the Boston Braves.
The rest, as they say, is history: During a relatively short career spanning only nine years, Robinson was Rookie of the Year in 1947, Most Valuable Player in 1949, took his team to the World Series six times (including one World Championship in 1955) and made the All-Star Team six times. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1962, and in an unprecedented gesture to his enormous historical significance and prowess as an athlete, Major League Baseball retired his number “42” in 1997, the first time this has been done for any athlete in any sport.
These are the facts of his baseball career, which kids my age knew by heart. But what virtually none of us knew back then, and many people don’t know today, is that Lt. Jack Roosevelt Robinson was actually court-martialed in 1944! Court-martials are military courts, usually consisting of a panel of commissioned officers who conduct a criminal trial. There are three types of courts-martial: Summary Court-Martial, Special Court-Martial and General Court-Martial. Robinson faced a General Court-Martial.
Had he been found guilty, the whole course of black participation in professional baseball and every other professional sport, as well as the modern civil rights movement, most probably would have been profoundly affected adversely. But the circumstances of that court-martial only add to Robinson’s credentials as one of the true pioneers of the civil rights movement.
If I had to bet on it, I’d say Jackie would’ve stood proudly.