NFL's Donald Trump protest spreads to Major League Baseball as catcher kneels
The NFL protest against US President Donald Trump has spread to Major League Baseball with Oakland Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell pressing a hand to his heart and taking a knee for the national anthem in two games at the weekend.
On Saturday (NZT Sunday), the 26-year-old rookie became the first MLB player to kneel during The Star-Spangled Banner and again he repeated the protest on Sunday (NZT Monday) as the A's braced for their game against the Texas Rangers.
Teammate Mark Canha put a hand on Maxwell's shoulder in a show of support.
The American athletes were protesting Trump's divisiveness, spurred by comments made by the US president at the weekend that urged NFL franchises bosses to "fire" team members who chose to protest during the singing of the national anthem before games.
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.''
The Warriors have also been swept up in the Trump v American sport protest with the basketball team's invite to the White House revoked after star player Stephen Curry decided he didn't want to attend.
Maxwell said after Sunday's baseball game (NZT Monday) 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.
"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.