OAKLAND, Calif. — Oakland Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell pressed a hand to his heart and took to a knee for the national anthem for the second straight game Sunday, part of a protest movement that has been criticized by President Donald Trump.
On Saturday, the 26-year-old rookie became the first major league player to kneel during "The Star-Spangled Banner" before the A's played Texas. Again Sunday, teammate Mark Canha put a hand on Maxwell's shoulder in a show of support like he also did Saturday.
Maxwell received support from NBA Finals MVP Kevin Durant of the champion Golden State Warriors.
"More power to him, man. He's standing up for something great," Durant said across town after the team's second practice of training camp. "We all respect it, support it and appreciate it."
Maxwell said after Sunday's game that he's received threats since kneeling, including racial epithets and warnings "to watch my back."
"I mean, I expected it, it's nothing different that I haven't dealt with in my life," Maxwell said. "The threats that I'm getting are part of the problem."
Maxwell hasn't reported the threats to authorities.
"We call these guys 'keyboard warriors,'" Maxwell said.
A's manager Bob Melvin said Maxwell's protest was a courageous act, noting that the decision to become the first player in the majors to adopt the protest came with risk.
"It does take a lot of courage because you know that now the potential of the crosshairs are on you and for a guy who's not as established, I'm sure, and I'm not speaking for him, but I'm sure there were some feelings for him that there was some risk," Melvin said before Sunday's game. "I do know that he felt better about it afterwards because there's a lot of uncertainty when you take that type of step."
Canha acknowledged trepidation about his decision to support Maxwell.
"I had to think about what I was going to do to show my support for Bruce, for 20 minutes, and even then I was hesitant to do it," Canha said. "Even then I was like, you know that fear of, I thought about Colin Kaepernick, well jeez — I love baseball, I want to play baseball, I love my job and love this country, I want to be part of this country, but to live in fear. Just the fact that I had that small amount of fear and that small amount of hesitation, speaks volumes about that we need some change."
Kaepernick was the first athlete to take a knee during the anthem while playing quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers. He is now a free agent, and his supporters believe NFL teams have refused to sign him because of his protests.
Maxwell doesn't believe his activism will hurt his career and said he's determined to continue with it regardless.
"I've talked to our superiors (Melvin and A's general manager David Forst) and they understand why I'm doing it and they respect the fact that I am doing it," Maxwell said.
"If it ends up driving me out of baseball, then so be it. This is bigger than a monetary standpoint, this is bigger than the uniform I put on every day. This is about the people in this country and we all deserve to be treated equally. That's the whole purpose of us taking a knee during the national anthem."
Maxwell explained his decision to kneel during the anthem in a clubhouse meeting he called before Saturday's game.
"I think we showed the last two days we're just rolling with it," A's catcher Josh Phegley said.
AP Sports Writer Janie McCauley contributed.
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