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.”
OAKLAND — Bruce Maxwell’s gesture to take a knee during the national anthem Saturday night at the Coliseum was no knee-jerk reaction by the A’s catcher.
It was something he’s considered for a long time, balancing his own personal convictions to make a statement with how it might affect his teammates and organization.
Think it was bold of Maxwell to become the first player in baseball to kneel during the anthem, in protest of racial discrimination and the inflammatory remarks of President Trump? It took just as much guts to stand before his teammates, manager Bob Melvin and GM David Forst and explain why he felt he needed to do it.
He did so in a pregame meeting Saturday that made for a degree of discomfort in the room, but also seemed to have played out in a healthy way.
“I didn’t want them to sugarcoat or aid me when it comes to the media and their personal feelings,” Maxwell said, “because the whole point of this is the ability to protest (based on) our personal beliefs and our personal choices.”
Many athletes have been critical of the President, with things intensifying across the sports landscape Saturday after Trump, among other things, withdrew an invitation for the Warriors to visit the White House and harshly criticized athletes who have knelt during the anthem, saying they should be booted off their teams.
After blasting Trump on both Instagram and Twitter, Maxwell took the field for the anthem and took the action that will define him in the eyes of the baseball world. Maxwell had been wanting to make a statement in some way. He said he and his sister dealt with racial discrimination growing up. Watching Trump’s rally play out in his hometown of Huntsville, Ala. on Friday further persuaded Maxwell to finally do so.
“This goes beyond the black community, it goes beyond the Hispanic community, because right now we’re having … a racial divide in all types of people,” said Maxwell, who is African American. “It’s being practiced from the highest power we have in this country and it’s basically saying it’s OK to treat people differently. And my kneeling, the way I did it, was to symbolize the fact that I’m kneeling for a cause. But I’m in no way or form disrespecting my country or my flag.”
A’s outfielder Mark Canha stood next to Maxwell during the anthem with his hand on Maxwell’s shoulder, a show of support. Canha said he’s considered kneeling before in protest himself but had chosen not to. As he listened to Maxwell address the team, Canha wasn’t going to let his teammate make his statement on his own.
“I could tell he was getting kind of choked up and emotional about his beliefs and how he feels about the racial discrimination that’s going on in this country right now,” Canha said. “I felt like every fiber of my being was telling me that he needed a brother today.”
Canha added that he sensed some “discomfort” in the room as Maxwell addressed the team. But he also said there was support.
“It was an open forum to ask him questions. It was as articulate as I’ve seen him,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “This wasn’t an emotional thing just today for him. … I think he handled it really well and everybody was comfortable after the session. I’m proud of him for the fact he went about it the way he did.”
Maxwell, who was born in Germany while his father served in the Army over there, said he will continue to kneel for the anthem. He doesn’t expect his teammates to do the same, only to stick to what they believe in.
“I have plenty of family members, including my father, who have bled for this country,” Maxwell said. “At the end of the day, this the best country on the planet. My hand over my heart symbolized that I am, and will forever be, an American citizen. But my kneeling is what’s getting the attention because I’m kneeling for the people that don't have a voice.”