OAKLAND — Bruce Maxwell’s decision to kneel for the national anthem before A’s games has become a national story, and the reaction on social media has ranged from sincere appreciation to ugly rancor over his actions.
One person watching from afar in Alabama wasn’t surprised when Maxwell became the first major league baseball player to take a knee, in an effort to raise awareness of what the A’s catcher views as long-standing racial discrimination that remains in this country.
Bruce Maxwell Jr., said he raised his son to make a difference in matters such as these.
“You don’t have to be brave to do it. You have to care about society,” Maxwell Jr. said in a phone interview. “If I’m trying to raise my child to be a productive citizen, then everything he’s doing is normal to me. That tells me that I did my job as a Dad, because he cares about society. And although he’s the one percent who made it in the world of baseball, he’s willing to sacrifice himself.
“You wanna talk about a proud Dad? I’m proud, buddy.”
The catcher has received death threats geared toward his father via social media, according to Maxwell Jr. The younger Maxwell didn’t mention those when he addressed the media Sunday afternoon, but he did say he’s received some racial slurs and people wishing him injury on the diamond.
Within the A’s clubhouse, Maxwell’s teammates generally gave carefully worded responses when asked about the topic of him kneeling for the anthem. Some were more expansive in their responses than others. But the common thread was a respect for Maxwell’s right to protest, and the manner in which he’s doing it.
“(Kneeling during the anthem) doesn’t bother me if guys are being respectful,” second baseman Jed Lowrie said Sunday morning. “You look at what Bruce did yesterday with his hand over his heart (while kneeling). He’s a guy from a military family, a guy who obviously has a strong respect for this country.”
Maxwell’s father served six years in the Army. He was stationed in Germany when Bruce was born there in 1990. As the two have talked over the past couple of years, the elder Maxwell sensed his son was getting closer to making some kind of social statement.
“What people don't see, or choose not to see, (is) you have minorities dying at the gun of police officers,” Maxwell’s father said. “And being what it is, whether they’re at fault or not at fault, whatever the case may be, it’s an epidemic.”
Maxwell, who is African American and said he and his sister experienced discrimination while growing up in Alabama, plans to continue kneeling for the anthem before every game. He’s got a strong backer in teammate Mark Canha, who on Sunday stood next to a kneeling Maxwell with his hand on Maxwell’s shoulder, a scene that also played out Saturday night. All other A’s players, coaches and staff on the field for the anthem remained standing.
Unlike Saturday, a security guard stood near Maxwell during Sunday’s anthem.
Before Saturday’s game, Maxwell met with the entire team to make them aware of his intentions to kneel and why he’s doing it. A’s starter Kendall Graveman came out of that meeting firmly in Maxwell’s corner.
“I think he’s opened our eyes to a lot of things that a lot of us in this clubhouse have never been exposed to,” Graveman said.
The elder Maxwell was a sounding board for his son leading up to the decision to kneel for the anthem.
“I’ve told him, ‘Son, just be careful what you do.’ And he said ‘Daddy, I’m pretty sure what I want to do.’ So I’m right there with my baby. He’s 26 years old, but I’m right there with my baby.”