Yankees and Nationals kneel before the national anthem

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WASHINGTON — Everyone from both the Yankees and Nationals knelt … before the national anthem.

Major League Baseball’s long-awaited opening night featured a pregame ceremony at Nationals Park that recognized a social issue that has risen to prominence since the death of George Floyd in custody of Minneapolis police in May.

The entire Yankees and Nationals rosters stood on their respective baselines as the Players Alliance video — featuring Yankees Aaron Hicks, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton as well as the retired CC Sabathia aired. Then came the “moment of unity,” as conceived by former Yankee and current Phillie Andrew McCutchen: a 200-yard piece of fabric extended from beyond first base to beyond third base via home plate, each man holding it, as Academy Award-winning actor Morgan Freeman voiced words that will be shared as each ballpark opens:

“In order to achieve effective change and create a new canvas of optimism, empathy must lead the charge. This moment signifies our charge. Our brotherhood. Our unity. Equality and unity cannot be until there is empathy.

Aaron Judge (center) and other Yankees kneel before the national anthem before Thursday night's game against the Nationals.
Aaron Judge (center) and other Yankees kneel before the national anthem before Thursday night’s game against the Nationals.Getty Images

“Today, and every day, we come together as brothers. As equals, all with the same goal — to level the playing field. To change the injustices. Equality is not just a word. It’s our right! Today we stand as men from 25 nations on six continents.

“Today, we are one.”

With that, everyone knelt — some on two knees, some on one — before rising for the national anthem.

Then the teams turned toward getting ready for the game, with Yankees players sporting patches on their left shoulders (above the patch saluting recently passed owner Hank Steinbrenner) reading “Black Lives Matter,” “United For Change” or both.

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