Sports Spectrum Magazine Summer 2021

Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright: Christ leads me to support 'my Black brothers and sisters'

Longtime St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright kicked off his 15th MLB season in strong fashion Saturday night, throwing six innings, striking out five and allowing one run on three hits. The 38-year-old earned the win, moving his career record to 163-95 and into third place all time for career wins with the Cardinals.

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But what might have been more significant were the words he spoke to the media the night before, prior to the Cardinals starting the shortened 2020 season at home against Pittsburgh. According to Jeff Jones of the Belleville News-Democrat, Wainwright was asked for his opinion on the Cardinals wearing “Black Lives Matter” t-shirts prior to the game.

“It’s very simple to me,” Wainwright began. “And I’ll tell you this, 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 said they had a team meeting in which outfielder Dexter Fowler, that night’s starting pitcher, Jack Flaherty, and assistant coach Willie McGee spoke to share some feelings and experiences they’ve endured as Black men.

“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,’” Wainwright said. “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.

“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.”

Last year, Wainwright and his wife, Jenny, adopted a baby boy, who is Black.

During the same press conference, Wainwright was also asked about San Francisco Giants pitcher Sam Coonrod, who is also a Christian and said he couldn’t kneel before anyone but the Lord. Wainwright said it’s a fine line, especially when talking with the media, which can spin his words however they want.

“All I can do is be honest with you. Let me first tell you I’m very secure in my faith. When I, as I plan to do, kneel with my teammates before the anthem, 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.

“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 can do all of that, but I don’t need to do all that because I’m secure in my faith. And I’m secure in what the Lord is telling me. The Holy Spirit works through me daily in everything I do. I really believe that..”

Wainwright emphasized that he’s not supporting any particular organization when he wears a “Black Lives Matter” shirt.

“If somebody has something to say about an organization, that’s fine. That’s not why I’m wearing that shirt. I’m wearing that shirt and that patch because my teammates said it means a lot to them and I want to love them well, and their lives matter to me,” he said.

Wainwright also shared some wisdom he gained from friend and former NFL tight end Benjamin Watson, who’s long been a strong voice when it comes to race and faith.

“Benjamin told me that nobody can tell you how to protest. If anybody tells you how to protest or tells you that you need to protest a certain way, they’re missing the point.

“I’m sure [Coonrod] stands up — as a Christian, there’s no possible way that he can look at the Black race and say that the doesn’t feel support for them at all. He probably loves them, but he just doesn’t feel that’s his form of protest. So I have no problem with it. That’s the great thing about this country, another great thing about this country. The first amendment rights are protected for everyone,” Wainwright said.

Wainwright is scheduled to pitch again Saturday in Milwaukee. Until then, he’ll surely have more conversations in which he aims to spread the love of Christ.

“[This situation has] given me a lot of opportunity to share my faith in different ways that I never thought would be possible,” Wainwright said Friday. You can see the entire press conference here:

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