In a league where players have gone silent, A’s Bruce Maxwell makes his voice heard

Matthew Bradford, Business Manager

EDITOR’S NOTE: The views expressed in this interview are of Bruce Maxwell, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Newsome High School.

Just four months ago, Oakland Athletics rookie catcher Bruce Maxwell was a minor leaguer hoping to get another crack at the big leagues. Today, he’s making national headlines after becoming the first Major League Baseball player to protest racial injustice by kneeling during the national anthem. He did this a day after President Trump called for NFL owners to fire their players on the spot who choose to kneel for the anthem and personally uninvited the reigning NBA champions from taking an official visit to the White House (the people’s house).

In a league where players have fallen silent on social justice issues, Maxwell has taken the first step toward creating a lane for major-leaguers to voice their opinions on issues present in today’s society.

Maxwell agreed to be interviewed by Wolf Tracks reporter Matthew Bradford and shared the reasoning behind his protest, what he told his teammates before his protest, and what he thinks the future holds for protests in the MLB.

MATT: “Alright, so you were born on a military base in Germany, what was that like growing up in a military family, especially being born overseas?”

BRUCE: “I didn’t move around a whole lot. I was born in Germany; I was there for about 3 years or so and then my dad got stationed in Alabama and I’ve been there ever since. My dad didn’t serve super long in the military, I think he was in there for like 9 years or something like that, but you know when I got a little older and started playing competitive sports, my dad got out of the army. My dad went into the army because he had two daughters by the age of 21- I think- and he needed a way to feed his family so he dropped out of college and enlisted in the army. My dad always told me, ‘I joined the army so you wouldn’t have to.’ For every reason I’m sitting here and breathing my parents are for everything I’m doing.”

MATT: “Obviously a lot of people who have been on the other side of the spectrum say they believe that kneeling is disrespectful to the military. So what would you say to people who say you’re disrespecting the military?”

BRUCE: “This is what people don’t understand. People are coming at me with hate and coming after anybody who protests the flag because they choose not to understand the reason we’re doing it. These are the same people who sit at home and sit on the couch, drink their beer, drink their beverage of choice when they are watching a sport and when the national anthem is on, they don’t remove their hat, they don’t stand at attention, they do not salute.

At the end of the day, I’m not protesting towards the military. I’m protesting a bigger cause that is going on with the American people and with society that is going on in our country today. That is the reason the military lays their life on the line every single day for the people inside this country that are citizens of this country to be able to exercise their 1st amendment rights, whether they agree with them or not. I know plenty of people and family that are in the military still that serve every single day. And that’s what they fight for. They fight for the freedom to be free of choice when it comes to the American citizen. Whether they agree with it or not, that is the reason they fight.

To defend this country, you know land of the free, home of the brave, that’s how it works so for people to tell me I’m disrespecting the flag. First of all you talk to anybody, a lot of people don’t even know what the flag actually truly stands for. Somebody sent me this the other day; the definition of patriotism is not staring at the flag and reciting the anthem. The definition of patriotism when it comes to your country is being able to proudly stand for your flag and know that what your flag represents is being upheld, which is not the case right now.

Our constitution says all men are created equal and right now they are not equals in this country. There are people being killed, being reprimanded for the color of their skin, for where they come from, what their heritage is, whatever have you, there’s not equality and now the president is on a national, worldwide podium, expressing to these people that being different is not okay, practicing prejudice is acceptable, and these people are now coming out of their segregated holes and now they’re feeling comfortable to protest without repercussions because they know that our president has their back, wrong or right.”

MATT: “Right, so now that you’ve done it, and people have been doing it in the NFL since Kaepernick started about a year ago, now you’ve been the first person to kneel during the anthem in the major-leagues, do you think any other players are going to follow your example by the end of the season?”

BRUCE: “I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a couple of people in the MLB that end up doing it. Now I’m not going to talk to these people, I’m not going to force them to do it, it’s not my job, and I’m making a personal decision on personal problems that I have dealt with myself and with my family and friends of mine. I told my teammates the same thing, ‘I don’t expect you guys to understand, I don’t expect you to support me, I said I don’t want you guys to try to aid me when it comes to the media.’ I said you say what you truly feel, regardless if somebody disagrees with me or not because at the end of the day I’m always going to have respect for you guys as teammates.”

MATT: “Your teammate, Mark Canha, put his hand on your shoulder during all this after you told your teammates you could do this all on your own and you didn’t need them to do this. How does it feel to you that Mark was able to make a big step forward to publicly support you like that?”

BRUCE: “Well you know what, for me it’s about the understanding of why I’m doing it. I couldn’t be prouder of my teammates being able to publicly believe and tell the media they support or respect what I’m doing because that makes me seem like they understand why I’m doing it, and for Mark to publicly tell the media that he supports me and what I’m doing when the reason I’m doing it is big for me because that means he’s taken everything physical out of context and he’s really trying to understand where I’m coming from and what the purpose of my kneeling is. So he’s supporting my reasoning, it doesn’t mean he’s supporting my personal decision to kneel, but he’s also supporting the fact that there is something when it comes to racial injustice- there is something wrong in this country and it should be fixed.”

MATT: “Exactly, and I think that is a big major step toward unity and what the country has been missing.”

BRUCE: “100% man and especially at a young age. People create labels. But at the end of the day, man has created the separation because of what they look like, what they do for a living, where they’re from, and how they talk. Those are just a few of the labels. So as soon as people start realizing that at the end of the day, the soldiers that fight for the freedom of this country, this country is one.

The diversity in this country is what makes America so great, but right now people are so infuriated with the fact that people are now starting to protest, peacefully, athletes are starting to protest because of the growing racial divide that’s going on and now that is being upheld for lack of a better word by our president is too much to sit back and let go by. We have the highest platform, outside of the President of the United States, as professional athletes in this country and it would be ignorant if athletes across the board were to sit here and shut up and make their money and not care about people. That means there is no faith in humanity. People that don’t speak up, but have their voice in silence behind doors, that is a problem.

People think butting up against the system is an issue and now I’m getting my tweets and stuff like ‘I hope you get kicked out of the country, I hope you break a leg and never play baseball again.’ I get called the N word all the time and all types of stuff is coming my way, but at the same time those are the type of people that don’t choose to see the problem.”

MATT: “Right. I just have one more question before I let you go. What would your advice be to a high school student?”

BRUCE: “Don’t ever think what you believe in is wrong. Don’t ever stop fighting for what you believe in because at the end of the day there is always going to be people that disagree with you. There’s always going to be people that have their opinion and think their opinion is better than yours, but at the end of the day what you personally believe in is right. I’m not going to say right, it’s ethical because that is what you believe in.
We live in a country where we are allowed to believe and practice any type of belief that we want without fear of repercussions from the police, from the president, from anybody personally, so whatever you believe in, fight for it regardless of how hard it may be, how difficult it may be, how impossible it may seem, fight for it because at the end of the day all you have is you.

So if you fold because you think it’s not getting anywhere then you’re folding on your beliefs within yourself as a person. And that’s honestly what I got for you man. That’s the thing, nowadays you got so many kids who don’t know what they believe in. They let the media steer them in the direction that they want to be because they see money, they see popularity and all this stuff.

But you got to understand for you to go anywhere in life or for you to progress anywhere, whatever you’re doing, you have to first understand who you are and what you believe in because that’s all that’s going to steer you in that direction to follow your beliefs. If not, you’re just kind of floating around in the world and that’s dangerous because you can be manipulated or influenced by anybody you feel that might have a voice, maybe- that might have an opinion that sounds good to you at the moment.

Never lose your inner self, man. That’s a big thing that I’ve always been taught in my life because I’ve been through racial issues, I’ve been through all this stuff growing up in Alabama, I continue to go through it when I go home and it’s just like if you lose who you are, you lose everything.”

MATT: “Thank you for your time and I really appreciate you taking 20 minutes out of your day to do this with me and I’ll be rooting for you the rest of your career.”

Santiago Mejia, The Chronicle
Bruce Maxwell kneels during the National Anthem before a game against the Texas Rangers on September 23, 2017.