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First MLB player to kneel during anthem asks, 'Where was this support?' when he protested racism

On Sept. 23, 2017, Oakland Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell became the first MLB player to kneel during the anthem in protest of police brutality and systemic racism. Nearly three years later, Maxwell is watching MLB teams and players publicly come out against racism in response to George Floyd’s brutal murder in police custody, but he’s not part of it.

Maxwell hasn’t played in MLB since 2018, and on the San Francisco Chronicle’s “A Plus” podcast, he wondered where this outpouring of support was when he took a knee in 2017.

“Where was this three years ago?”

Maxwell said on the podcast that he wasn’t surprised that MLB was the last of the major sports leagues to issue a statement about Floyd’s death, considering that they gave him zero support when he took a knee in 2017. He credits the Athletics for supporting him fully at the time, and is glad that things are changing, but he’s still upset at the lack of widespread support he experienced when he protested.

“The difference now is everyone is hopping on board, the athletes, the people supporting how Colin Kaepernick did his thing, some people are supporting how I did my thing. We did it in a peaceful manner and the purpose is now being seen as genuine, a legitimate problem in America.

“But where was this three years ago? Where was this when Kaepernick lost his career and still kept pushing? Where were these people when I took a knee? ... Where was this support when I was pushed out of MLB and it was made to seem it was because I was arrested and what I was arrested for wasn’t even illegal?”

Bruce Maxwell was the first MLB player to kneel during the national anthem to protest police brutality. (Photo by MediaNews Group/Bay Area News via Getty Images)

Maxwell explains 2017 arrest

Maxwell believes his 2017 arrest for assault with a deadly weapon is part of the reason teams wouldn’t sign him after he elected free agency at the end of the 2018 season. He claims that the incident, during which he opened his door for a delivery person with a gun in his hand, was blown out of proportion, and was driven by the death threats he received following his protest.

“People threatened to hang me, threatened to burn my house down. They said they hope I died in a house fire or lived with third-degree burns,” Maxwell said on the podcast. “It was the most atrocious stuff I’ve ever heard in my life, and I’ve never understood why there is so much hatred for a pursuit of equality.”

Those death threats are why Maxwell opened the door with a gun in his hand on Oct. 28, 2017, just over a month after he knelt at an A’s game.

“I never raised my weapon but I did frighten the woman at my door because I had a weapon — I would have been frightened as well. As soon as I recognized it was a woman, I apologized and walked back to my living room and put my gun back in my safe. I walked back to the door, apologized again, and she handed me the food one of my friends had ordered and she went on her way.

“Moments later, I get a call from the police and I had numerous cops at my house. They were pointing rifles at me when I walked out of my door like I had killed 30 people and hid the bodies in my apartment.”

Maxwell was eventually sentenced to two years of probation on the gun charge, and while the A’s supported him through his legal issues, they designated him for assignment after he hit just .182/.207/.309 for the season. He now plays for Monclova in the Mexican League, helping them win their first championship in 2019. But seeing MLB teams come out against racism has reminded him of what he experienced — that despite numerous teams needing a backup catcher going into the 2019 season, he didn’t hear from any of them.

“I was loud and obnoxious and I will own it. That’s what I pleaded to — I have a plea for disorderly conduct, which is the same if you were drunk outside a bar and p—ing on the building. People have used that to call me a criminal when the original exaggerated charge couldn’t be proven because it did not happen. No one can let that go, which is OK, but the same people who can’t let that go don’t need to be posting ‘Black Lives Matter’ because those people are hypocrites.”

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