"I just kind of wanted to express that I wasn't talking to them to dissuade somebody," Francona said. "I just think, if somebody felt strong enough about it, there would be a way as a team to show support, because we do things together. It's easy for me to sit here and say, 'Well, I think this is the greatest country in the world,' because I do. But, I also haven't walked in other peoples' shoes."
A's rookie catcher Bruce Maxwell took a knee during the national anthem on Saturday and again Sunday, as many players in the NFL have done, in an attempt to raise awareness about brutality and injustice at the hands of authorities.
Former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started the anthem protest last year, and when that situation stirred national debate, Francona wanted to find a way to do something more tangible to help others. Francona, members of the Indians' front office and coaching staffs, along with the team's players, joined together to create the Larry Doby Youth Fund. The team raised $1 million and the grants were distributed in April to 18 charitable organizations.
"I felt like that was our way, as a team, to show our support for other things, other people who are less fortunate," said Francona, whose son, Nick, served with the Marines in Afghanistan. "I always feel like trying to turn something that could be a negative into a positive is a good way to do it. But, I also see that people are trying to spur conversation. I get that."
Francona was moved by how swiftly so many people came together to create the Larry Doby fund.
"That was one of the proudest moments of my life. I'll always feel that way," Francona said. "I think politicians would do well to come into a Major League clubhouse, because you have people from everywhere. You talk about diverse backgrounds. Yet, if you have our uniform on, it's 'we.' I think people could learn a lot."
Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.