Rays' Chris Archer: Taking a knee is not nearly enough

“Taking a knee is like the smallest possible thing you can do,” says Archer, who is extremely active in social causes off the field.
“Taking a knee is like the smallest possible thing you can do,” says Archer, who is extremely active in social causes off the field.
Published Sept. 28, 2017

NEW YORK — Rays pitcher Chris Archer believes strongly in the message athletes have been delivering in various ways over the last year protesting social injustice.

But Archer has a message of his own for the hundreds of NFL players who joined the parade last weekend in response to comments by President Donald Trump:

It shouldn't be those ignorant words spurring them to action but the core issue, and it will take more than taking a knee to solve the problem.

"The whole taking a knee during the national anthem or sitting down concept arose 12 months ago, and I was more inclined to do it from that point until a couple weeks ago than I am right now," Archer said.

"Because I think what's happening is there is more of a reaction to what the president is saying about specifically the NFL and its players than the original concept of the social injustice and how the judicial system has been handling certain things like when an unarmed minority is attacked, physically abused or even killed.

"That was the original purpose. And that's something that I've been standing for in my own way since I became conscious and aware, for about the last 10 years, since I was 19 years old and I first started doing things in the community."

Archer, who is biracial, is one of the most socially conscious and socially active players, not just among the Rays but throughout the majors. He has invested considerable time, and some money, to help causes primarily at the youth level, including appearances at the Police Athletic League, Pinellas County Juvenile Detention Center and the Starting Right, Now homeless­ness nonprofit.

So when Archer came out Sunday, after a tough loss in Baltimore, and said he wouldn't join those protesting during the anthem, in deference to teammates who have differing views, some questioned his commitment to the message he said he supported just because of potential repercussions in the clubhouse.

"I'm not scared," Archer said. "I'm not afraid. I'm not shying away from what I believe in. Because I'm in the streets. Name me another player that's ever gone to a juvenile detention center ever in baseball. In Tampa Bay. There may be some football players that have done it, but name me another that has sat in front of kids who have committed serious crimes and try to help them understand that No. 1, the world is not against them. And when it seems like the world is against you, the only way to combat that is with a positive mind, positive outlook, making the right decisions.

"I've been doing this before somebody took a knee. I never made it about political activism (but) it kind of is. It was about helping the world. Like, since day one, I've always told you I'm planning to use my platform (as a major-leaguer) to positively impact people."

His view is that he's already doing his part, and the exposure and awareness that joining Oakland catcher Bruce Maxwell as major-leaguers to kneel during the anthem wouldn't be worth the potential divisiveness in the clubhouse.

Whether that's a legitimate concern or a convenient excuse is a fair question. Archer said he never asked and no player objected directly to him, but he said he had heard enough chatter from people on and around the team to know it would be an issue. First baseman Logan Morrison, who comes from a military family, said he couldn't speak for others, but he wouldn't have had any problem with Archer kneeling for the anthem.

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What Archer would like to see is more players across all sports be more proactive in doing so, noting how former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who started the anthem protest last year, is trying to now with words.

"Taking a knee is like the smallest possible thing you can do," Archer said. "Over 200 NFL players took a knee, but I'd like to know what percentage of those players have gone and spoken to either police forces or affluent kids or kids in poverty.

"I'm sure they have, but how much of that was influenced by their team giving them $1,000 to go to this school, or they (go and) don't tell nobody, they don't get a single accolade, they don't get a single dollar."

Archer also questioned how much of the NFL-wide response was tied to Trump's derogatory comments about the protestors rather than the root issue worthy of protest.

"It's like the reaction right now is to Donald Trump, and I'm not going to allow ignorance to influence me negatively or positively," Archer said. "Because when you give that life, whether you are resisting it or you are for it, you're still giving it life. It still lives.

"For me, when that guy, when people, spew ignorance, it doesn't affect me. Because I know what I'd doing with my life. I know how I'm trying to impact this world."

From wherever, or however positioned, he is.