The spirit of Memorial Day is lost on many, many people. A cursory glance at social media on Monday will illustrate that very clearly. Simply put, Memorial Day honors those soldiers who have died in the line of duty; who have made the ultimate sacrifice for his/her country.
It is not about supporting those who have served (Veteran's Day), or those who are currently serving (Armed Forces Day). It is about those who have perished. And, for a while, it seemed like Major League Baseball didn't really understand that either.
For a decade, teams have worn and sold special gear, the most recent version of which have been accented by camouflage. Since 2008, the royalties have gone to the Welcome Back Veterans initiate, a charity that "supports organizations that provided programs and services to address the mental health needs of returning veterans and their families." That's certainly a worth cause, but not really in keeping with the true theme of the day of remembrance.
That is going to change this year, according to The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal.
My latest for The Athletic: MLB is changing the way it commemorates Memorial Day. https://t.co/zn2wDCpYlG $— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) May 24, 2018
Rosenthal reports that this year, the Tragedy Assistance Program (TAPS) and Folds of Honor Foundation will receive 100 percent of the royalties from the sales of Memorial Day apparel, with the league pledging a minimum donation of $500,000.
Rosenthal also says that this was helped made possible by Mets general manager Sandy Alderson, who served in the Marines, when he recommended that baseball’s vice-president of social responsibility, Melanie LeGrande, reached out to James Wright, the former president and a professor of history at Dartmouth College who has done research, writing, and public speaking on matters relating to education and veterans.
This is a great job all around by the league, by LeGrande and Wright, and by Sandy to help make the connection. I understand how intertwined sports and patriotism have become, and I think it's wonderful to honor the work of those who choose to serve. But as a collective society, we need to understand what we're remembering, and why it's important.
Even I am guilty of saying that Memorial Day Weekend is my favorite of the year. It means the unofficial kick off of summer; barbecues, baseball, usually a few beers. But we have this three-day weekend to remember the fallen heroes, and we should treat it accordingly.
Last year, four players wore poppies on the field, Andrew Romine, Nick Castellanos, Justin Verlander, and Alex Wilson. I'd love to see something understated like that, or a simple black memorial arm band (as Paul Lukas at Uni Watch has advocated) on the jersey act as an on-field tribute. People likes a good camo hat or shirt, but solider cosplay doesn't really seem like an appropriate way to honor the dead.
On Monday, consider not shooting off fireworks. If you are inclined to buy a cap or a jersey from MLB Shop or Lids, do so knowing the cause you're helping. And above all, take maybe just one brief moment to reflect on those who have given up everything in the name of an idea: America.