The NFL has seen several protests occur during the national anthem in the past year. Colin Kaepernick’s quiet protest against police misconduct and racial inequality inspired a heated debate between critics and supporters, gathering fellow players to do the same throughout the 2016-17 season and continue into this season. The same can’t be said about Major League Baseball, still considered America’s pastime and lacking the same level of protest as the NFL.
Orioles centerfielder Adam Jones was quoted in September 2016 that you didn’t see a Kaepernick-style protest in the MLB because “baseball is a white man’s sport’’ and being vocal like the former San Francisco quarterback could end with you being kicked out of the sport. One year later, the sport has finally seen its first player take that risk.
Oakland Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell made a statement ahead of Saturday night’s game against the Texas Rangers by taking a knee during the national anthem. Maxwell had teased the possibility earlier in the day on Twitter, a response and prediction based on the divisive comments by President Donald Trump on Friday night.
Maxwell was out in front of the entire stadium, with the support of his teammates by his side, showing solidarity with the players in the NFL and other sports that have made the same decision. Susan Slusser from the San Francisco Chronicle reported the news and shared the striking photo on Twitter:
Maxwell’s decision should add to the discussion in both positive and negative ways, but also carries some extra weight thanks to his personal background. The catcher’s father served as a career officer in the Army, discussing his view on the military and his father during his time in the minor leagues ahead of the Fourth of July in 2015 according to the Midland Reporter-Telegram:
Maxwell, a son of a U.S. Army veteran, was excited to be playing on the national holiday. Maxwell, also known as Bruce III, was born on a U.S. military installation in Wiesbaden, Germany while his father, Bruce Jr., did a tour of duty overseas.
“It means a little bit more to me,” Maxwell said before Saturday’s game. “I take it a little more personal. It’s closer to my heart than most holidays and so it’s just about a respect of guys that give their lives every day and their families that feel the repercussions of what they do over there, even in the States. It’s a big thing for me and it’s an honor to play on this day.”
In his post-game comments, Maxwell said he made his decision to kneel because “athletes kneeling” seems to be the only statement and protest that is getting national attention — something that means a bit more considering the attention given to the president’s comments compared to the coverage of St. Louis on Saturday.
The Athletics also released a statement before the game to show support to players who choose to protest, saying the organization that is proud of “being inclusive.”
What happens next will be the interesting development for MLB and the rest of the sports world. Will other players join Maxwell in protest? Will the rookie be silently punished for his decision? Will protests expand on Sunday and the weeks to come thanks to the inciting comments from Donald Trump? No matter what happens, Maxwell’s decision to kneel is important to baseball and its position in the national discussion.