OAKLAND (AP) — Bruce Maxwell of the Oakland Athletics became the first major league baseball player to kneel during the national anthem Saturday, pulling the sport into a polarizing protest movement that has been criticized harshly by President Donald Trump.
Before a home game against the Texas Rangers, Maxwell dropped to a knee just outside Oakland’s dugout, adopting a protest started by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in response to police treatment of blacks. The 26-year-old rookie catcher pressed his right hand against his heart, and teammates stood in a line next to him. Teammate Mark Canha, who is white, put his right hand on one of Maxwell’s shoulders, and the two hugged after the anthem finished.
“Everybody watches sports and so everybody loves sports, so I felt this was the right thing for me to do personally,” Maxwell said.
Maxwell’s protest comes after Trump blasted football players and rescinded a White House invitation for NBA champion Stephen Curry in a two-day rant that targeted top professional athletes.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.”
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.”