Athletics

Bruce Maxwell: Kneeling for anthem not 'disrespecting my country or my flag'

Bruce Maxwell: Kneeling for anthem not 'disrespecting my country or my flag'

OAKLAND — Bruce Maxwell’s gesture to take a knee during the national anthem Saturday night at the Coliseum was no knee-jerk reaction by the A’s catcher.

It was something he’s considered for a long time, balancing his own personal convictions to make a statement with how it might affect his teammates and organization.

Think it was bold of Maxwell to become the first player in baseball to kneel during the anthem, in protest of racial discrimination and the inflammatory remarks of President Trump? It took just as much guts to stand before his teammates, manager Bob Melvin and GM David Forst and explain why he felt he needed to do it.

He did so in a pregame meeting Saturday that made for a degree of discomfort in the room, but also seemed to have played out in a healthy way.

“I didn’t want them to sugarcoat or aid me when it comes to the media and their personal feelings,” Maxwell said, “because the whole point of this is the ability to protest (based on) our personal beliefs and our personal choices.”

Many athletes have been critical of the President, with things intensifying across the sports landscape Saturday after Trump, among other things, withdrew an invitation for the Warriors to visit the White House and harshly criticized athletes who have knelt during the anthem, saying they should be booted off their teams.

After blasting Trump on both Instagram and Twitter, Maxwell took the field for the anthem and took the action that will define him in the eyes of the baseball world. Maxwell had been wanting to make a statement in some way. He said he and his sister dealt with racial discrimination growing up. Watching Trump’s rally play out in his hometown of Huntsville, Ala. on Friday further persuaded Maxwell to finally do so.

“This goes beyond the black community, it goes beyond the Hispanic community, because right now we’re having … a racial divide in all types of people,” said Maxwell, who is African American. “It’s being practiced from the highest power we have in this country and it’s basically saying it’s OK to treat people differently. And my kneeling, the way I did it, was to symbolize the fact that I’m kneeling for a cause. But I’m in no way or form disrespecting my country or my flag.”

A’s outfielder Mark Canha stood next to Maxwell during the anthem with his hand on Maxwell’s shoulder, a show of support. Canha said he’s considered kneeling before in protest himself but had chosen not to. As he listened to Maxwell address the team, Canha wasn’t going to let his teammate make his statement on his own.

“I could tell he was getting kind of choked up and emotional about his beliefs and how he feels about the racial discrimination that’s going on in this country right now,” Canha said. “I felt like every fiber of my being was telling me that he needed a brother today.”

Canha added that he sensed some “discomfort” in the room as Maxwell addressed the team. But he also said there was support.

“It was an open forum to ask him questions. It was as articulate as I’ve seen him,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “This wasn’t an emotional thing just today for him. … I think he handled it really well and everybody was comfortable after the session. I’m proud of him for the fact he went about it the way he did.”

Maxwell, who was born in Germany while his father served in the Army over there, said he will continue to kneel for the anthem. He doesn’t expect his teammates to do the same, only to stick to what they believe in.

“I have plenty of family members, including my father, who have bled for this country,” Maxwell said. “At the end of the day, this the best country on the planet. My hand over my heart symbolized that I am, and will forever be, an American citizen. But my kneeling is what’s getting the attention because I’m kneeling for the people that don't have a voice.”

Relive three iconic A's victories, performances against rival Astros

Relive three iconic A's victories, performances against rival Astros

Programming note: NBC Sports California will air three classic A’s-Astros games beginning Saturday at 3 p.m. PT.

Since joining the AL West after switching leagues in 2013, the Houston Astros quickly have morphed into one of the A’s most hated rivals.

Those seven seasons have produced plenty of classic matchups, as the clubs finished the season as the division’s top two teams in four of the seven years.

However, the coronavirus outbreak forcing an indefinite suspension upon MLB has robbed teams of getting a chance at revenge on Houston, after the organization was implicated in a nefarious sign-stealing scheme this offseason.

Nevertheless, there's still a way to get your fix, as fans can tune in to NBC Sports California on Saturday afternoon to relive three memorable A’s victories over the Astros.

Lowrie caps comeback -- Sept. 8, 2017

The A’s had their backs against the wall entering the bottom of the seventh inning, trailing Houston 7-3 on a cloudy fall evening in Oakland.

Then Marcus Semien walked to the plate. It took just one swing for the game to be tied at seven as the Bay Area native connected on his third career grand slam. After former A’s outfielder Josh Reddick gave Houston back the lead in the top half, the A’s brought out the power once again. 

Boog Powell led off the bottom half by tying the game with a solo home run, then a few batters later Jed Lowrie brought Semien home to deliver a walk-off win.

The A’s clearly fed off the momentum of that victory, as Oakland went on to sweep the four-game set.

Olson beats Astros -- Aug. 17, 2018

Neck-and-neck in the divisional race, these two adversaries faced off once again at the Oakland Coliseum just under a year later. 

In his 29th career MLB appearance, outfielder Nick Martini was the night’s first hero, tying the game in the bottom of the ninth with an RBI double to bring home Ramon Laureano, who initially was called out before a replay review reversed the ruling.

Slugger Matt Olson came up in the 10th, and lifted a towering shot just over the right-field fence, bringing the A’s to within one game of the AL West lead.

[RELATED: Why Olson's walk-off homer vs. Brewers was so impressive]

A’s offense explodes -- Sept. 10, 2019

A day after the A’s were hammered 15-0 at Minute Maid Park, the A’s returned the favor in a big way with a 21-7 win.

Astros starter Wade Miley lasted just a third of an inning before being relieved, having allowed six runs, all of which came on RBI singles.

Oakland ended up with six total home runs, including two apiece from Olson and young catcher Sean Murphy. It also was the first time in the expansive history of the A’s that the team scored 20 or more runs, had 25 or more hits, and hit at least six home runs in the same contest.

So sit back, relax, and enjoy what likely would have become America’s new greatest pastime this summer: Watching your team beat the Astros.

Chad Pinder, A's players will feel 'residual effects' when MLB returns

Chad Pinder, A's players will feel 'residual effects' when MLB returns

A’s utility man Chad Pinder is home in Charlotte, North Carolina getting plenty of things done. Watching Netflix, painting nursery furniture, and getting in decent workouts in his garage.

Productive, but not reassuring.

“This is kind of unprecedented in our lifetime, basically to have the nation on hold right now,” Pinder told NBC  Sports Bay Area this week. “It is a very scary time, especially in some the areas that are affected bad right now.”

It was only a few weeks ago Pinder and his Oakland teammates were in Mesa, Arizona getting ready for a highly anticipated 2020 MLB season. 

They, like most of the country, didn’t fully interpret the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic at first.

“I don’t know if we initially realized what was going on,” Pinder said. “Thought maybe this would be a two-week break, month maximum. The more information you get, the more you see going around, you realize this is a long-term thing.”

Pinder, a highly-regarded clubhouse leader, now keeps in touch with teammates mostly through text messages.

“We have a group thread, everybody’s talking,” Pinder said.

Their main conversations are about MLB developments, and to keep each other in the loop of when baseball could resume. Players don’t have any more assurances or insights than the average fan does these days. But there are some certainties. 

“Even when we resume stuff, there will be residual effects of what’s been going on,” Pinder said.

[RELATED: Stewart better after coronavirus scare]

That aforementioned nursery project is indeed preparation for Chad and his wife Taylor’s first child, due in the late summer months. He is certainly seeing different perspectives of events right now, as they relate to the future.

“The way we handle this, the way we come out of this,” Pinder said. “We’ll look back on the rest of our lives and remember this time.”