Athletics

Ex-A's catcher Bruce Maxwell details mental toll of kneeling in HEADSTRONG

Ex-A's catcher Bruce Maxwell details mental toll of kneeling in HEADSTRONG

"It made me feel a little lost in the world."

Former A's catcher Bruce Maxwell made history on Sept. 23, 2017, by being the first MLB player to kneel during the national anthem in protest of racial inequality and police brutality. 

He detailed that day to NBC Sports Bay Area/California in NBC Sports' documentary, "HEADSTRONG: Mental Health and Sports."

"When I got to the field, I immediately walked into my manager's office -- had a sit down with him and our GM in private, told them what I was going to do, told them how I was going to go about it -- told them my plan, reasons, and shed a few tears because it's a heartfelt subject for me ... " 

Maxwell knew the backlash he would receive, he just wasn't prepared for the magnitude of it. He received death threats -- and still does to this day.

"The fact that somebody actually took the time to find out what school my sister coached basketball at in Texas, somebody took the time to find out where my mother lived," he explained. 

Maxwell then admitted he rarely left home when he headed back to Arizona following the event. 

"I was miserable," he said. 

He didn't want to do anything. Not exercise, not even talking to his parents.

"At that moment in time, I was standing for something way bigger than myself," Maxwell explained.

Just a few weeks later, the 28-year-old made headlines once again when he was arrested at his home in Scottsdale, Ariz. and charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and disorderly conduct after he allegedly pointed a gun at a food delivery worker.

Maxwell told NBC Sports Bay Area/California he was in a certain mental state, and in addition to what was currently going on, he felt he needed to grab his gun in order to protect himself.

"I'm in my house, I'm defending myself, just in case this happens to be one of these crazy-ass people that are sending me threats," Maxwell said

He didn't feel like himself. Not even like a human being, he explained.

[RELATED: Marcus Semien shares mental health journey]

But now, he's freely talking about it and wants to leave his mark on the world with more than just what's going on between the foul lines.

You can watch all of the "HEADSTRONG: Mental Health and Sports" vignettes right here. The full documentary will play all month on NBC Sports Bay Area and NBC Sports California.

Check our channel listings page for times and dates.

A's Mark Canha ahead of the game when it comes to playing with a mask

A's Mark Canha ahead of the game when it comes to playing with a mask

Mark Canha came to Oakland Coliseum on Wednesday and found a new face mask in his locker. Most everyone was given one, but it certainly wasn’t a standard issue. Not with its design.

Someone made masks that looked like Mike Fiers’ face when he had rocked that swirling facial hair design on Sept. 14, 2019 against the Texas Rangers.

Canha suspects Fiers himself.

The A’s outfielder tried it on, fully intent on wearing it for a workout. He ultimately, however, went against joining Bob Melvin and Sean Manaea in a Fiers facemask.

“I was excited about them, but the comfort level wasn’t there for me,” Canha said Wednesday afternoon in a conference call. “It was ill-fitting, so I didn’t wear it out there, but I wanted to.”

It’s not like Canha is anti-mask. Quite the opposite in fact. He wears them when he should in public and in communal areas of Oakland Coliseum now that baseball’s getting back to work during the coronavirus pandemic.

He wore one well before it was required for anything but warmth. Canha has worn a type of ski mask on colder nights, even in the East Bay when it’s not completely frigid. He even wrote a poem about it last year. 

“You know how cold it gets at night here, so now nobody will make fun of me on social media for wearing it when it’s 65 degrees out,” Canha said. “I have a good excuse.”

It sounds like Canha could often wear a mask while playing defense this season, though it might not be as consistent at the plate.

“When I do wear the mask at night, I typically wear it at the plate,” Canha said. “On hot day games, that’s a different situation. It will be a feel thing. If it’s super-hot, it’s hard to wear a mask, especially if we’re in L.A. or something. You want to be able to breathe and you get sweaty, so it can be uncomfortable.”

[RELATED: Semien doing his part to keep A's safe during pandemic]

Canha definitely understands the importance of MLB’s health and safety protocols. It’s something the A’s discussed on Tuesday, and they all seem to be in lockstep about following the letter of the law.

“We had a meeting yesterday and talked about having a high-risk guy on our team in Jake Diekman and we have guys with families,” Canha said. “We talk about how we have to keep it in mind that there’s a bigger picture beyond playing baseball. At the same time, on the baseball side of it, we have to make sure we stay healthy so we have all of our players in the lineup. … When you talk about kids and families and the bigger picture of what’s going on, I think everyone is respectful of that.”

A's players hilariously sport Mike Fiers' unique facial hair with masks

A's players hilariously sport Mike Fiers' unique facial hair with masks

We all know what Mike Fiers is known for -- his facial hair. Other things too, sure, but that’s not what this blog is about. 

This particular beard -- or mustache, whatever it was -- that Fiers sported during a game last season was such a hit, they sported it at A’s workouts on Wednesday in the form of a face covering:

During A’s media day in January, I asked him about this "unique" facial hair he briefly sported against the Texas Rangers back on Sept. 14. Was it a cinnamon roll? The letter “G?” Well, he ultimately told NBC Sports California it was a cattail. 

And why did he do it? Well the answer was simple: It’s a long season and he wanted to make his teammates laugh. That’s it. 

“It just helps the guys in the clubhouse, just keeps it light,” he told us. And a quick Google search later, there it was, in all its glory. 

Nevertheless, the beard obviously made its mark known.

[RELATED: How Fiers rewarded Profar, Laureano for saving no-hitter]

Pitchers Sean Manaea and Frankie Montas joined manager Bob Melvin during Wednesday’s workouts in sporting the face covering, complete with the infamous cattail. Montas posted a photo of him rocking it on his Instagram story on Wednesday much to Fiers’ delight. Plus, Manaea said he wanted to spruce up the face masks to wear this season which should do the trick in this case.

Having fun while maintaining MLB’s safety protocols -- you love to see it.