An injured backup catcher made the Athletics front page news Saturday night before a single pitch had been thrown.
Bruce Maxwell became the first Major League Baseball player to kneel during the National Anthem, holding his hand over his heart and facing the American flag the A’s fly beyond the left field wall.
Maxwell informed his teammates, as well as manager Bob Melvin and A’s general manager Dave Kaval, that he planned to kneel during the anthem:
“It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. These guys are my family, the Oakland A’s is the only family I’ve ever had in professional baseball. So being able to sit down and confidently have this conversation with David and with Bob Melvin and with my teammates before the game was something huge that I felt like needed to be done.”
Outfielder Mark Canha flanked Maxwell to the catcher’s right, placing a hand on his shoulder to show solidarity:
“Every fiber of my being was telling me that he needed a brother today … I’ve thought about kneeling before. When [Colin] Kaepernick was doing it last year, I supported Kaepernick doing that.”
Maxwell referenced remarks made Friday night by President Donald Trump as one reason why he decided to protest Saturday night. President Trump ranted against NFL anthem protesters during a rally in Alabama, suggesting players who kneel and “disrespect our flag” be fired.
Maxwell rebutted the idea that the goal of an anthem protester is disrespect:
“The point of my kneeling is not to disrespect the military. It’s not to disrespect our constitution. It’s not to disrespect our country … I’m kneeling for the people that don’t have a voice. This goes beyond the black community. This goes beyond the Hispanic community.”
A’s left fielder Khris Davis called Maxwell “very courageous” and said he respects Maxwell’s cause:
“This isn’t just anybody doing it. He comes from a background, his dad is a vet right? He served … [Maxwell] is just exercising his rights as an American.”
Former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick became the first professional athlete to kneel during the national anthem in August, 2016 as a way of protesting the treatment of people of color in the United States. Kaepernick is currently a free agent, but his protest was not in vain.
Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett began sitting during the national anthem after a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, VA erupted in violence, ultimately leading to one death and dozens injured. Niners safety Eric Reid knelt with Kaepernick during the entirety of the 2016-17 NFL season and continues to do so this season. More are likely to follow throughout the duration of the NFL season after President Trump’s remarks.
Maxwell said after Saturday’s game that he plans to continue kneeling during the national anthem for the forseeable future. Canha plans to join his teammate:
“I think this country has a lot of work to do when it comes to racial equality … You bet I’ll be right there next to him … I’m gonna be there with Bruce every day. I support everything he stands for by doing this.”
Regardless of how many other major leaguers join Maxwell and Canha in protesting the anthem in the coming weeks and next season, Maxwell remains strong in his convictions:
“People think athletes should shut up and get their money and play their sport, but no matter how much money we make, no matter how many touchdowns we score, no matter how many home runs we hit, it doesn’t mean we aren’t people. Our paychecks don’t silence us.”