Bruce Maxwell, catcher for the Oakland Athletics, just became the first major league baseball player to take a knee during the national anthem in Saturday’s game against the Texas Rangers.
The team released a statement on Twitter shortly after.
“The Oakland A’s pride ourselves on being inclusive,” the statement read. “We respect and support all of our players’ constitutional rights and freedom of expression.”
The political statement came a day after the president criticized athletes who protest during sporting events.
Last year, then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was booed for taking a knee during the national anthem while his team played the San Diego Chargers. Kaepernick said the silent protest was meant to bring awareness to injustices against minorities in the United States. It has been a source of controversy ever since.
During a rally on Friday night, President Donald Trump outraged dozens of professional athletes when he implicitly called Kaepernick a “son of a bitch” and asked for athletes protesting to be fired.
But Maxwell was undeterred.
He tweeted several times on Saturday in regards to the issue, saying it was about “just complete inequality.” He also wrote that no one should be “surprised if you start seeing athletes kneeling in other sports now.”
″Inequality is being displayed bigger than ever right now as our president shows that freedom of protest and speech is not allowed,” Maxwell tweeted hours before Saturday night’s game.
MLB.com’s Jane Lee tweeted a statement from Maxwell later in the evening, responding to negative comments he received for his protest.
“I get nasty DMs and everything, but that also shows what’s wrong with this country,” Maxwell said. “People think athletes should shut up and get their money and play their sport, but no matter how much money we make, no matter how many touchdowns we score, no many how many home runs we hit, it doesn’t mean we aren’t people. Our paychecks don’t silence us.”
Trump’s comments came after NBA star and Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry said he would not be attending the team’s visit to the White House. The president later rescinded the invitation and caused an uproar.
″(Athletes are) all trying to do what we can,” Curry said Friday, before Trump’s rally. “We’re using our platforms, using our opportunities to shed light on that, so that’s kind of where I stand on it. I don’t think us not going to the White House is going to miraculously make everything better, but this is my opportunity to voice that.”
Earlier this year, several New England Patriots players refused to attend a celebration at the White House, a traditional visit for teams who win sports championships. Some of the players who stayed away said that Trump displayed racist rhetoric throughout his campaign and that they wouldn’t feel accepted in the White House.
Major League Baseball has largely remained outside the issue, as the sport has comparatively kept silent on the politics of racial inequality in the country. Meanwhile, players of color in the NFL and the NBA have used their platforms to highlight the issue of racial injustice in the U.S.
Basketball superstar LeBron James, who gave a scathing response to Trump’s comments about Curry on Saturday, expressed in a tweet why the matter was so personal and important to him. James was the victim of a hate crime earlier this year.
“Obviously, we all know what happened with Charlottesville and the divide that that caused,” James said. “And now it’s hitting home for me even more because [Trump]’s using sports as the platform to try and divide us.”
This story was updated to include Bruce Maxwell’s statement to MLB.com.
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