Athletics

Bruce Maxwell's Colin Kaepernick kneel still sparks hate, misunderstanding

Bruce Maxwell's Colin Kaepernick kneel still sparks hate, misunderstanding

Programming note: Tune in to "Race in America: A Candid Conversation" on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m. this week on NBC Sports Bay Area and streaming here.

Like Colin Kaepernick, he is a black man who saw injustice and was compelled to respond.

Unlike Kaepernick, his chosen field is dominated by whites.

Like Kaepernick, he imperiled his career over a matter of principle.

Unlike Kaepernick, he has been largely forgotten.

Bruce Maxwell is neither bitter nor regretful. He is scarred. And when he speaks, it is with a strong sense of emotional fatigue. As if he has been through the fire and accepts that the burns upon him will ache forever.

“I still have the messages,” he says. “I had a kid the other day come out on my team and just said, ‘Eff you,’ on my Instagram. He was like, ‘People like you are the problem that we have in this country.’ I had a guy reach out to me last year ... in the middle of my season, down here in Mexico, that told me that he hopes me and my family die a horrible death. I still get ...

“Three years and I still get it. It's the hate. It's the hate.”

Maxwell was speaking this week as a panelist on an NBC Sports Bay Area roundtable discussion, “Race in America: A Candid Conversation,” in reaction to global outrage after George Floyd was asphyxiated beneath the knee of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. This was the latest example of the conduct Maxwell had hoped to eradicate.

On Sept. 23, 2017, Maxwell, a biracial catcher for the Oakland A’s, decided to bring attention to police brutality afflicting the black community. Following the lead of Kaepernick, Maxwell dropped to one knee during the playing of the national anthem before an A’s-Rangers game at the Oakland Coliseum.

“I was just going into a year in the league,” he says. “I was a nobody. I was still technically a rookie. I didn't have millions of dollars in the bank, but this was much bigger than my paycheck.”

With baseball being a sport that generally tilts to the political right, Maxwell might as well have put a bullet into the leg of his Major League career.

Maxwell finished the season with the A’s and, with 109 games on his resume, all with Oakland, hoped to compete for a job in 2018. Five weeks after kneeling for the anthem, he was arrested in Scottsdale, Ariz., and initially charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon – pointing a gun at a food deliverer – and disorderly conduct. In July 2018, after pleading guilty disorderly conduct, Maxwell was sentenced to two years' probation.

A bullet into the other leg of his career. Maxwell appeared 18 games in 2018 and saw his statistics decline for a third consecutive season. He was not re-signed by the A’s that November and has not since been signed by any of the 30 MLB teams.

Maxwell, 29, took his career to Mexico, where last season he was an All-Star, posting a .325/.407/.559 slash line, with 24 home runs and 112 RBIs in 109 games with Acereros de Monclova of the Mexican League.

Though the light that represents MLB gets a little smaller every day, Maxwell, 29, hasn’t given up. He’d love another chance at the bigs. He also realizes his social-justice moment has become a burden that can’t be rinsed off his back.

And he’s OK with that. Indeed, the Floyd tragedy causes Maxwell to relive his own experience, all while the resultant global outrage -- the rioting and looting and increasingly violent police response -- simultaneously drops a knot into his belly.

“I have so many raw emotions about this,” he says. “All I can see is everybody, including George Floyd, I can see everything that came before him. I see Breonna Taylor (an African-American EMT shot in her bed in Louisville on March 13) sleeping in her bed peacefully. I see everything. And it's so many ways to feel and you can't really put it into words.”

[RELATED: Maxwell details mental toll of kneeling in "HEADSTRONG"]

What seems to bother Maxwell most is not what he might have given up, or what he might never again have. It’s the lack of progress on an issue that, in all humanity, should not be an issue at all.

“Nobody wants to see the message,” he says. “All they see is who's doing the stance. It's difficult to comprehend. It's sometimes difficult to stay on that path, but at the same time, it makes it worth the fight because these things need to happen for change to commence in the world that we live in.”

Maxwell dared to make a highly visible but inarguably peaceful protest for a cause any human must consider just. He did it on a baseball field, which takes monumental courage.

Bruce Maxwell should be remembered. Forever. As will Colin Kaepernick.

Cleveland Indians follow Washington, could change controversial name

Cleveland Indians follow Washington, could change controversial name

Have we seen the last game between the A's and the Cleveland Indians as they're known today? Just hours after the NFL team in Washington announced it would consider changing its racist nickname, Cleveland's MLB franchise released a statement indicating that the team was open to discussions on changing the "Indians" nickname.

The franchise has used the "Indians" moniker for over a century, switching over from the Cleveland Naps back in 1915. Broncos, Bluebirds, Lake Shores and Bustlers all also are nicknames the franchise has had in its lengthy history.

[RELATED: How Black MLB players are confined by baseball's conservative culture]

 

Cleveland's management clearly has understood how the nickname could be considered offensive, as it removed the controversial "Chief Wahoo" alternate logo from the team's uniforms and most apparel at the end of the 2018 season.

Public pressure has mounted in the wake of sweeping support across the nation for reform to fight systemic racism and police brutality in the United States. 

It won't be a surprise if we see not one, but two major American sports franchises completely rebrand with a new nickname and mascot before 2020 wraps up.

[RACE IN AMERICA: Listen to the latest episode]

A's still deciding on alternate training site due to coronavirus issue

A's still deciding on alternate training site due to coronavirus issue

The A’s activated a 60-man player pool to start training for the upcoming 2020 baseball season. Most of those players will work out of Oakland Coliseum during a three-week camp to prepare for games that count. The rest will go to an alternate site that the A’s have yet to determine.

“That has not been easy,” A’s general manager David Forst said Friday. “We’re working on that. We have a lot of players and staff members waiting by the phone anxious to hear when they’re leaving and when they’re going. I’m spending a lot of time working on that, as are a lot of other people.”

Stockton was the most obvious location. The A's Single-A affiliate resides there, so it seemed natural the Ports would host members of the player pool not training in Oakland and, eventually, those not part of the 30-man roster.

The A’s didn’t cement that site due to increased concerns over spikes in coronavirus cases and the heightened restrictions that followed.

[RELATED: A's have no opt-outs, injury issues entering training camp]

Stockton remains a possibility, though the A’s have explored other options in relatively close proximity to their home base. The ongoing public health crisis that delayed the MLB season, canceled the minor league baseball campaign and created a need for a reserve squad capable of filling in for the MLB players injured or infected, plays a part in the ultimate selection.

“Stockton is in the mix,” Forst said. “Anywhere we’ve looked around here, the situation with the virus is a factor. San Joaquin County, Stanislaus County -- we’ve looked around Alameda County -- how each county is handling things and their particular orders come into play when we’re looking into alternate sites.”

The A’s obviously need a quality baseball complex and housing around it for their players to temporarily reside, making options somewhat limited. Finding the right spot, and soon, will be important as players start to prepare in earnest for the season ahead.