On Saturday, Bruce Maxwell, catcher for the Oakland A's, became the first Major League Baseball player to kneel during the national anthem. Following that, on Sunday, he knelt during the national anthem for a second time, joining the Oakland Raiders, all of whom either knelt or linked arms during the national anthem before their game against the Washington Redskins.
Maxwell, who's been on the end of loads of criticism for his decision, is fully aware of the fact that protesting in such a way can result in the end of his sports career. In speaking with KRON 4, he said, "If it ends up driving me out of baseball, then so be it. This is bigger than a monetary standpoint, this is bigger than the uniform I put on every day. This is about the people in this country and we all deserve to be treated equally. That’s the whole purpose of us taking a knee during the national anthem.
For what it's worth, Maxwell has the support of his team behind him. Before Sunday's game, Bob Melvin, manager for the A's, also told KRON 4, "It does take a lot of courage because you know that now the potential of the crosshairs are on you and for a guy who’s not as established, I’m sure, and I’m not speaking for him, but I’m sure there were some feelings for him that there was some risk. I do know that he felt better about it afterwards because there’s a lot of uncertainty when you take that type of step."
And though it's unclear whether the Raiders' coaching staff and management support their protesting players, it's quite obvious that the fans do. As ABC 7 tells it, attendees at Sunday's game cheered in support as the players moved to kneel or link arms during the anthem.
But in talking about protesting the national anthem and the potential backlash that lies in doing so, it's impossible to not bring up former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, whose career has been in limbo since he first sat during a 49ers preseason game last year.
When he was asked what that demonstration meant back in 2016, Kaepernick told NFL.com, "I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. 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."
With Maxwell and the Raiders joining many other athletes across multiple professional sports leagues, it's clear that Kaepernick's message has not only spread, but expanded as well.
After Saturday's game, Maxwell issued a statement to SFGate about his decision to kneel. "The point of my kneeling was not to disrespect our military or our constitution or our country. My hand was over my heart because I love this country and I have family members, including my father, who bled for this country, and who continues to serve. At the end of the day, this is the best country on the planet. I am and forever will be an American citizen and grateful to be here, but my kneeling is what’s getting the attention, and I’m kneeling for the people who don’t have a voice. This goes beyond the black and Hispanic communities because right now we have a racial divide that’s being practiced from the highest power we have in this country saying it’s basically OK to treat people differently. I’m kneeling for a cause but I’m in no way disrespecting my country or my flag."
Such demonstrations have even earned the ire of Trump, who has spent more time tweeting about his anger over these demonstrations than he has about anything going on in Puerto Rico right now. What began as Kaepernick's quiet protest against the police's continued acts of violence against people of color — specifically Black people — has grown into a wider sign of protest, one that's struck many sports fans in ways both good and bad. But whether that sign can grow into something more is entirely up to all of us.