Oakland Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell catapulted himself into the national political discourse on national anthem protests, one intensified by President Trump’s comments over the weekend, as he knelt for the song preceding a game against the Texas Rangers.
Maxwell, a 26-year-old rookie whose family has military roots, is the first MLB player to kneel during the anthem, following in the footsteps of former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who began kneeling during the anthem ahead of the 2016 NFL season. Since then several dozen athletes, mostly NFL players, have followed suit, using the gesture to protest police shootings of unarmed black men and to support the Black Lives Matter movement.
Maxwell, however, knelt also to protest comments by President Trump, according to his agent, specifically Trump’s call on NFL owners to fire or suspend players for kneeling during the anthem. Trump continued that call Sunday morning on Twitter.
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners,” wondered the president at a Friday night rally, “when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out. He’s fired. He’s fired!’ ”
Trump continued on the subject, criticizing the NFL for trying to make the game safer for players and on Saturday, via Twitter, he uninvited Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry to the White House. The Warriors subsequently announced none of the team would go when they make their trip to Washington, D.C., in February to celebrate their 2017 NBA Finals victory.
Maxwell, who is African American and from a military family, was one of dozens of athletes who fired back at Trump online on Saturday, noting the issue now has extended to supporting the right to free speech.
“My decision had been coming for a long time,” Maxwell said after the A’s 1-0 victory, citing his own experiences with racism while growing up in Huntsville, Ala., where Trump made his initial comments Friday. “The only way we can come together is by informing. … To single out NFL players for doing this isn’t something we should be doing — I felt it should be a little more broad.”
Maxwell, who said he plans to continue his protest, placed his hand on his hand on his heart and faced the flag during the anthem as he took a knee. Teammate Mark Canha placed a hand on his shoulder as he knelt.
“He’s very courageous,” A’s outfielder Khris Davis said. “I respect his decision, he’s just exercising his rights as an American.”
Earlier in the day, he had tweeted about Trump and Instagrammed a profane response to the president’s comments. “Our president speaks of inequality of man because players are protesting the anthem! [Expletive] this man! Seriously on the highest platform for our country expressing that it is OK for there to be Division of man and rights!” On Twitter, he was more circumspect.
While Maxwell was the only player in the ballpark to kneel, his team supported his action.
“The Oakland A’s pride ourselves on being inclusive,” the team said in a short statement. “We respect and support all our players’ constitutional rights and freedom of expression.”
Maxwell’s agent, Matt Sosnick, reiterated that Maxwell’s decision to kneel was not meant as a show of disrespect to the military or American values.
“Bruce’s father is a proud military lifer. Anyone who knows Bruce or his parents is well aware that the Maxwells’ love and appreciation for our country is indisputable,” Sosnick told the San Francisco Chronicle.
“Bruce has made it clear that he is taking a stand about what he perceives as racial injustices in this country, and his personal disappointment with President Trump’s response to a number of professional athletes’ totally peaceful, nonviolent protests. Bruce has shared with both me and his teammates that his feelings have nothing to do with a lack of patriotism or a hatred of any man, but rather everything to do with equality for men, women and children regardless of race or religion.”