A’s rookie catcher Bruce Maxwell, who earlier in the day profanely bashed President Trump on Instagram, became the first major-league player to kneel during the national anthem on Saturday before Oakland’s 1-0 win at the Coliseum.
“My decision had been coming for a long time,” Maxwell said, citing his own experiences with racism while growing up in Huntsville, Ala., which is where Trump on Friday made disparaging comments about NFL players who choose to kneel for the anthem. “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 plans to continue kneeling for the anthem.
“He’s very courageous,” said A’s outfielder Khris Davis, who hit his 40th homer Saturday. “I respect his decision, he’s just exercising his rights as an American.”
“The point of my kneeling was not to disrespect our military or our constitution or our country,” Maxwell said. “My hand was over my heart because I love this country and I have family members, including my father, who bled for this country, and who continue to serve. At the end of the day, this is the best country on the planet. I am and forever will be an American citizen and grateful to be here, but my kneeling is what’s getting the attention, and I’m kneeling for the people who don’t have a voice.
“This goes beyond the black and Hispanic communities because right now we have a racial divide that’s being practiced from the highest power we have in this country saying it’s basically OK to treat people differently. I’m kneeling for a cause but I’m in no way disrespecting my country or my flag.”
Maxwell held a meeting before the game to let his teammates know about his decision, along with manager Bob Melvin and general manager David Forst.
“He was as articulate as I’ve seen him,” Melvin said. “This wasn’t an emotional thing just today for him. Something had been leading up to it and he felt today would be the right platform to do it.”
The A’s issued a statement on Twitter that read: “The Oakland A’s pride ourselves on being inclusive. We respect and support all our players’ constitutional rights and freedom of expression.”
Saturday morning, Maxwell, who is African American, posted a tweet from Andrew Steinthal that suggested that all NFL players should kneel for the anthem Sunday. Below the post, Maxwell added in a comment, “Yeah, f— this guy! Our president speaks of inequality of man because players are protesting the anthem! F— this man! Seriously on the highest platform for our country expressing that it is OK for there to be division of man and rights!”
Maxwell was born in Wiesbaden, Germany, when his father, who also is named Bruce, was stationed there with the Army. The younger Maxwell grew up in Alabama, and he is highly patriotic — he took great pride in the July 4 uniforms and catcher’s gear he received this year.
“Bruce’s father is a proud military lifer,” Maxwell’s agent, Matt Sosnick, said via text. “Anyone who knows Bruce or his parents is well aware that the Maxwells’ love and appreciation for our country is indisputable. 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.”
While numerous players and athletes in other sports have joined Kaepernick’s anthem protest over the past year, no big-leaguer had done so before Maxwell. A year ago, Baltimore outfielder Adam Jones, who is African American, told USA Today that no major leaguers had followed suit “because baseball is a white man’s sport.”
The percentage of African Americans on Opening Day rosters this year was 7.1, the lowest since 1958, according to USA Today.
Major League Baseball issued a statement after Maxwell’s decision not to stand that read in part: “Major League Baseball has a longstanding tradition of honoring our nation prior to the start of our games. We also respect that each of our players is an individual with his own background, perspectives and opinions.”
By Susan Slusser