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Athletics' Bruce Maxwell first MLB player to kneel during national anthem

MLB, Oakland Athletics

Oakland Athletics rookie catcher Bruce Maxwell became the first Major League Baseball player to kneel during the national anthem when he did so before Saturday night's 1-0 home victory against the Texas Rangers.

Maxwell, 26, dropped to a knee and pressed his cap against his chest just outside Oakland's dugout during the anthem, adopting a protest started by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in response to police treatment of blacks.

Maxwell pressed his right hand against his heart while facing the flag, and teammates stood in a line next to him. Teammate Mark Canha, who is white, placed his hand on Maxwell's shoulder, and the two hugged after the anthem finished.

"My decision has been coming for a long time," Maxwell, the son of a U.S. Army veteran, said after the game. "I know I was on the fence for a long time because I know no one in baseball has ever done it. I finally got to the point where I thought the inequality of man is being discussed, and it's being practiced from our president.

"The point of my kneeling is not to disrespect our military, it's not to disrespect our Constitution, it's not to disrespect this country. ... My hand over my heart symbolizes the fact that I am and I'll forever be an American citizen, and I'm more than grateful to be here. But my kneeling is what is getting the attention because I'm kneeling for the people that don't have a voice.

"And this goes beyond the black community, and this goes beyond the Hispanic community, because right now we're having an indifference and a racial divide in all types of people. It's being practiced from the highest power that we have in this country, and it's basically saying that it's OK to treat people differently. My kneeling, the way I did it, was to symbolize that I'm kneeling for a cause, but I'm in no way or form disrespecting my country or my flag."

Athletics manager Bob Melvin said Maxwell addressed the team and told it of his decision. Players were supportive, Maxwell said.

Canha approached Maxwell after the meeting to offer his support.

"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 in my being was telling me that he needed a brother today."

Maxwell said he plans to continue kneeling during the anthem. 

The A's issued a statement minutes after the national anthem ended, saying: "The Oakland A's pride ourselves on being inclusive. We respect and support all of our players' constitutional rights and freedom of expression." 

Major League Baseball also issued a statement later Saturday, saying the league "has a longstanding tradition of honoring our nation prior to the start of our games. We also respect that each of our players is an individual with his own background, perspectives and opinions. We believe that our game will continue to bring our fans, their communities and our players together." 

Entering Saturday, Maxwell had played in 71 games this season, batting .244 with three homers and 21 RBIs.

In 2015, Maxwell told the Midland Reporter-Telegram that he was excited to play a game on the Fourth of July, as he was born on a U.S. military installation in Wiesbaden, Germany, while his father, Bruce Jr., did a tour of duty overseas with the U.S. Army.

"It means a little bit more to me," Maxwell said at the time. "I take it a little more personal. It's closer to my heart than most holidays, and so it's just about a respect of guys that give their lives every day and their families that feel the repercussions of what they do over there, even in the States. It's a big thing for me, and it's an honor to play on this day."

Before Saturday's game, Maxwell referenced President Donald Trump's speech on Friday night, in which Trump was critical of NFL players who protest during the national anthem. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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