Olympic softball coach Ken Eriksen has expressed his support for the players on the Texas pro team who have walked away after accusing the club’s general manager of politically “hijacking” a photo of them standing for the national anthem.
The Scrap Yard Dawgs, based out of The Woodlands, Texas, features 10 members of the Olympic team.
The photo was taken prior to the team’s game Monday night against the USSSA Pride in Viera. During the game, the since-deleted tweet — featuring a photo of the team standing for the anthem — was sent out on the Scrap Yard official account with the caption, “Everyone respecting the FLAG!”
Scrap Yard general manager Connie May, who authored the tweet, also tagged the Twitter handle of President Donald Trump, an outspoken critic of those who kneel during the anthem.
The backlash by Scrap Yard players, and current and former Olympians, was immediate and intense, with many using social media to express their disgust.
In a text message Wednesday to the Tampa Bay Times, Eriksen expressed his.
“To have the gall to politicize not only the women that stood at attention while the national anthem was playing, but to also indict and politicize the sport and all that play it is nothing short of cowardly and ignorant,” said Eriksen, who has no Twitter account.
“I am so proud that our USA players, our USA alumni and those that stood beside them have stood up for what they believe is the ‘just cause.’ The players are able to separate what the flag stands for and what is correct for humanity. Obviously others cannot.”
Several players told ESPN they met with May after the game, but the conversation seemed to yield no positive results. Some players walked out of the meeting.
“That trust is entirely broken,” Kelsey Stewart, a Black member of Scrap Yard who starred at Florida and also plays for the Olympic team, told ESPN. “I will never play for the Scrap Yard organization again.”
United States Specialty Sports Association executive director Don DeDonatis III reportedly visited the players Monday night and expressed his support for them.
ESPN reported Wednesday that the seven-game series between Scrap Yard and USSSA Pride, signaling a return of high-level softball after several months of dormancy due to COVID-19, has been called off.
“This is a sad state of affairs in an alleged world of professionalism,” Eriksen said.
“There is no place for any type of insinuation or flat-out blatant racism, gender bias, cultural hate or religious persecution.”