Before the Oakland A’s and Texas Rangers game on September 23rd, A’s catcher Bruce Maxwell became the first MLB player to kneel during the national anthem, joining a long string of protests most commonly seen in the NFL, started by Colin Kaepernick. After the 1-0 A’s victory, played in Oakland, Maxwell addressed the press to detail the intentions of his protest, and his contribution to the ongoing dialogue. “The point of my kneeling is not to disrespect our military, it’s not to disrespect our Constitution, it’s not to disrespect this country.”, says Maxwell. “My hand over my heart symbolizes the fact that I am and I’ll forever be an American citizen, and I’m more than grateful to be here.” Maxwell comes from a military family, and was born in Wiesbaden, Germany during his father’s military service with the U.S. Army. Protests all around professional sports have escalated amidst President Trump’s twitter activity and remarks made at a rally in Alabama, where the president criticized the Golden State Warrior’s unwillingness to visit the White House following their NBA Finals victory last spring, as well as calling on NFL owners to go so far as firing their players who choose to kneel during the national anthem.
The protests’ spread to different sports is evidence that they are having an effect. Over the past year with the protests centralized in the NFL, the issue was easier to ignore, particularly with Colin Kaepernick still out of an NFL job. With the protests spreading, and more skilled, indispensable players participating, the conversation is certain to continue. Current protesters include Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcom Jenkins, Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett, and Bennett’s brother Martellus, tight end for the Green Bay Packers. In addition to the anthem protests, activism has become a part of the movement, as Jenkins has participated in many efforts to reduce social injustice in Philadelphia.
It will be interesting to see if more MLB players begin to protest in the wake of Maxwell’s decision. He has also mentioned that he plans to continue kneeling throughout the rest of the season. Mark Canha, A’s first baseman, placed his hand on Maxwell’s shoulder in a show of support, another common trend seen in the NFL. The ultimate goal of the protests is to put the pressure on elected officials to take tangible steps towards reducing the social injustice that is perceived in American society. Hopefully, with the help of other athletes using their fame and voice, our country will become one we can all be unequivocally proud of.