Oakland Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell catapulted himself into the ongoing national political discourse on Saturday when he knelt for the national anthem ahead of a game against the Texas Rangers.
Maxwell, a 26-year-old rookie, 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 made Friday and Saturday by President Trump, according to his agent, specifically Trump’s call on NFL owners to fire players for kneeling during the anthem.
“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.
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.”
The player will now likely face a litany of questions not necessarily pertaining to baseball. His agent, Matt Sosnick, however, attempted to answer a few for him, including reiterating 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.
Sosnick continued: “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.”