First pro baseball player kneels during anthem
Oakland Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell became the first Major League Baseball player to kneel during the national anthem.
After Donald Trump called NFL players who kneel during the anthem "Sons of bitches," this was inevitable. The reaction to Trump's call to fire or suspend NFL players who kneel from players and league officials was to be expected - harsh criticism that Trump was trying to prevent their right of free expression and that his call for owners to deal with kneeling players was racist.
It's clear now that the battle lines have been drawn for all pro sports. Expect more baseball players to follow Maxwell's example today.
Maxwell dropped to a knee just outside Oakland’s dugout on Saturday before a game against the Texas Rangers, adopting a protest started by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in response to police treatment of blacks. Maxwell’s teammates stood in a line next to him. Teammate Mark Canha, who is white, put his right hand on one of Maxwell’s shoulders.
The Athletics released a statement on Twitter shortly after the anthem, saying they “respect and support all of our players’ constitutional rights and freedom of expression” and “pride ourselves on being inclusive.”
Major League Baseball also issued a statement, saying it has “a longstanding tradition of honoring our nation prior to the start of our games” but that “we also respect that each of our players is an individual with his own background, perspectives and opinions.”
Maxwell’s protest comes after President Donald Trump denounced protests by NFL players and rescinded a White House invitation for NBA champion Stephen Curry in a two-day rant that targeted top professional athletes.
“That’s a total disrespect of everything that we stand for,” Trump said of kneeling through the anthem. He added, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, you’d say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired.”
What was Maxwell's reasoning for taking a knee?
“This now has gone from just a BlackLives Matter topic to just complete inequality of any man or woman that wants to stand for Their rights!” Maxwell wrote.
Maxwell was born in Wiesbaden, Germany, while his father was stationed there in the Army. He later moved to Alabama, where he attended high school and college. Maxwell’s agent, Matt Sosnick, told The Associated Press that “the Maxwells’ love and appreciation for our country is indisputable.”
“Bruce has made it clear that he is taking a stand about what he perceives as racial injustices in this country, and his personal disappointment with President Trump’s response to a number of professional athletes’ totally peaceful, non-violent protests.
“Bruce has shared with both me and his teammates that his feelings have nothing to do with a lack of patriotism or a hatred of any man, but rather everything to do with equality for men, women and children regardless of race or religion.”
Let us recall the original words of Colin Kaepernick after his initial protest against the anthem last year.
"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," Kaepernick told NFL Media in an exclusive interview after the game. "To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder."
Is this unbalanced, hysterically exaggerated rant the reason Maxwell took a knee? And if it isn't, why emulate it? Why not come up with another way to protest what Trump said rather than associate his protest with these false and malignant words?
Black people are not "oppressed" in America. That is a loaded word not connected to reality. In fact, it is an insult to truly oppressed people everywhere. If you claim to be "oppressed" in the US, you are praised and feted from one end of the country to another by left wing media and liberal groups. If you claim to be "oppressed" in North Korea, for instance, you are likely to be taken out immediately and shot. Or in Myanmar, if you are a Rohingya minority, if you claim to be "oppressed" you're mother and sisters are likely to be raped and you end up in prison. That's what true "oppression" is and anyone in the United States who claims the status of being "oppressed" is a gross exaggeration of reality and minimizes the suffering and courage of those who seek freedom from that oppression around the world.
Kaepernick has received a lot of flak for his protest, but he has also been praised to the skies for his position by other players, team management, the league, and the sports media. In fact, those who might disagree with Kaepernick's protest, as well as similar demonstrations from others, are cowed into silence.
Maxwell is kidding himself if he doesn't believe that kneeling for the national anthem is not disrespectful. His act means that we can expect all sports will see the anthem protest become a fact of life. It will continue until the league gives in and banishes the playing of the anthem altogether.