In 2017, Oakland Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell followed Colin Kaepernick's lead by taking a knee during the national anthem to protest police brutality against black people. He was the first and only MLB player to kneel, but in every photo of the demonstration, teammate Mark Canha is there — standing next to him with a hand on his shoulder in support.
“Every part of me was telling me I need to be connected to this, and I need to show my support, and that it was important,” Canha told Yahoo Sports' Hannah Keyser.
Maxwell recently said on a San Francisco Chronicle podcast that he wished this level of national support had existed when he knelt in 2017. He also said he was not surprised MLB was the last of the major sports leagues to issue a statement about George Floyd’s death, but credited the A’s for supporting him.
Canha says now that if MLB and its teams want to actively support players in speaking out against systemic racism, they need to be clear about where they stand on protesting during the national anthem.
"As long as nobody addresses the kneeling specifically there's going to be a question in players' heads of whether or not they're going to be scrutinized or blacklisted," he said.
The A’s outfielder, who hit 26 home runs in a career-best season in 2019, noted how his privilege as a young player allowed for his advancement, and said the youth baseball system contributes to a lack of diversity in the ranks of MLB’s players. He said he would welcome more widespread protests on the field this season.
Maxwell has not played in the majors since 2018, due in part to an arrest stemming from an incident in which he allegedly pointed a gun at a woman delivering food to his home. The case was later resolved in a plea deal.
MLB and the players association are still locked in negotiations about how and when the 2020 season will begin after the coronavirus pandemic shut down spring training in March.
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