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Bruce Maxwell kneels for national anthem before Oakland A’s game

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Maxwell is the first MLB player to do so amid a growing movement throughout sports.

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Oakland A’s catcher Bruce Maxwell kneeled during the national anthem before Saturday’s game at the Coliseum, becoming the first MLB player to do so amid a rising movement across sports over the last year.

In that photo, we see Maxwell kneeling but facing the flag with his hand over his heart. Teammate Mark Canha has his hand on Maxwell’s shoulder. For all the current details on this still-developing story, please read Susan Slusser’s take at the S.F. Chronicle.

Background

Back in August 2016, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick gained national attention — both positive and negative — for sitting during the anthem before NFL games as a protest against racial oppression and police brutality in the United States. Over the course of the next year, many athletes in men’s and women’s sports including football, basketball, and soccer have joined in the movement, even down to the high school level.

The Coliseum first saw an anthem protest last September, when the Oakland Unified School District’s Honor Band kneeled during its performance of the “Star-Spangled Banner” before an A’s game. For more on the gesture by the high school and middle school students, here is Joyce Tsai of the East Bay Times.

The story has continued into the present day and been met with divided reactions. Supporters note the validity of the grievances as well as the Constitutional right to free speech, while others criticize what they see as a lack of respect for the flag and the military.

On Friday night, President Donald Trump made comments at a rally in Alabama suggesting that NFL owners should fire any “son of a bitch” who “disrespects our flag.” His statements received a negative response from many players, as well as the NFL Players Association. As noted by Alex Kirshner of SB Nation, “That was the leader of the executive branch urging private businesses to cut ties with employees for exercising a First Amendment right.”

On Saturday morning, Trump withdrew the traditional White House invitation initially offered to the NBA champion Golden State Warriors, due to their hesitation in making a decision on whether to accept and Stephen Curry’s stated desire to decline.

Saturday

Maxwell responded to Trump’s Friday comments both on Twitter and on Instagram before kneeling at Saturday’s game.

Maxwell is African-American, and he was born on a military installation in Germany while his father was stationed there in the Army. Slusser’s story notes that the catcher is “highly patriotic ... so his decision to kneel appears to be entirely in opposition to Trumps comments and in solidarity with the NFL players who have taken a knee for the anthem.”

Before the game, Maxwell “addressed [the] team, told them his plans and took questions” (via Slusser). He intends to continue kneeling, reports insider Jane Lee. The A’s announced their support for his “constitutional rights and freedom of expression.”

Former A’s star Coco Crisp tweeted his support for Maxwell later in the evening. After the game, Canha said (via Lee): “Every fiber in my being was telling me that he needed a brother today. ... I'm going to be there with Bruce every day.” Canha also said (via Joe Stiglich of NBCS) that he had “considered kneeling in past. Didn't want to do it today with Maxwell. Said it wouldn't have felt genuine.” Khris Davis called Maxwell “courageous” (via Slusser).

Maxwell made the following post-game statements:

More from Maxwell:

Also watch statements from:

Let’s discuss

We’ll have more on this story as it develops. Usually we stick to baseball here at Athletics Nation, but every so often sports and politics collide in an unavoidable way and real-life issues are brought to our doorstep. At those times, it’s important that we not ignore the call.

Normally, we don’t talk politics in the comments. Please consider that rule suspended for this thread. Let’s talk this out as a community.

I’ll start. For one, I fully support the cause at hand. I believe there is clear evidence that people of color still face injustice and oppression in our country, including but not limited to their experiences with police. I also believe it’s possible to support and appreciate the police at large while recognizing that they have systemic problems and insisting that those issues be dealt with and reformed.

Additionally, I support the means of protest, choosing not to salute the flag. Our Constitution tacitly allows it in its first amendment, and the spirit of having the freedom to peacefully oppose the government is a core tenet of our basic rights. I believe it to be one of the primary ideals that our military has fought in favor of for centuries. I also think it says a lot when a person with a military background like Maxwell joins in, and I thank him for his bravery on Saturday and for bringing the conversation to baseball — a sport that proudly celebrates the decidedly political tale of Jackie Robinson as one of its most cherished memories.

The whole point is to jolt people enough to notice and listen, in a way that doesn’t block traffic or interrupt commerce or overlap with the gameplay of the sports match or physically harm or threaten anyone in any way. To feel the jolt but not adequately address its origin would be a mistake by any reasonable logic. Furthermore, for the president to advocate for retaliation against criticism is wholly inappropriate and probably unconstitutional.

You are free to agree or disagree with any part of my take. Let’s discuss respectfully.