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MLB Opening Day Record TV Numbers Coincides with Prominent Shows of Solidarity with Black Lives Matter Movement

Some fans’ anger over kneeling didn’t stop the first games of the season from drawing huge viewing numbers

The New York Yankees and Washington Nationals kicked off the 2020 Major League Baseball season on July 23rd. Although the Yankees took the game 4–1 in a weather-shortened six innings, what most people were talking about was a pre-game ceremony that saw all players, managers and coaches from both teams kneel i in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. The display was lauded by many but also criticized by others; some of whom went as far to say they would no longer follow baseball as a result. However, if early returns are any indication, the shows of solidarity were a smashing success.

Interestingly, nobody from either team knelt during the national anthem. While their pre-game show of support was a nice gesture, it was still not a full commitment of support to Black Lives Matter. That didn’t stop fans from voicing their anger and intention to ditch the game because of the teams down on one knee:

In particular, the Yankees, who have a fan base known for their pride and staunch support of the team, saw some immediately pop up on comment threads to make their thoughts known.

As it turns out, positivity appears to have won the day. ESPN’s Ben Cafardo reported that the Yankees game, which was broadcast on ESPN, drew an average audience of four million television viewers. That was a record for an MLB Opening Night game and the most-watched regular season game on any network in nearly a decade.

The surge of fans continued in that evening’s late-night contest between the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers, which also featured players kneeling during the playing of the anthem. That contest put up viewer numbers that made it ESPN’s most watched regular-season late night game ever.

It’s clear that there will continue to be more actions by MLB players and teams to support Black Lives Matter as the season goes on. Despite some detractors, their unhappiness is being drowned out by the overwhelming joy over the return of baseball and the powerful messages of advocacy.

Written by

Dabbler in history & writing. Master’s degree in baseball history. Passionate about diversity, culture, sports and education.

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