Saturday, Sept. 22, Major League Baseball joined the ongoing movement of professional athletes taking a knee during the national anthem. When the national anthem opened the Oakland Athletics’ game, rookie catcher Bruce Maxwell put a hand over his heart and took a knee.
Whether or not you agree with these athletes and why they are protesting or what they are speaking out against, one would hope everyone can agree that protest itself is a good thing. We are fortunate to live in a place where people can stand up for what they believe in without suffering legal consequences, and this freedom makes me proud of the country I live in.
That being said, not many other parts of this movement are agreed upon so easily. Given President Trump’s comments in regard to National Football League players and Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry Sept. 23, the debate over social justice within sports, begun by Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling protest, has reignited. In response to the president’s comments, professional athletes took to Twitter and took knees across the nation. Cue Bruce Maxwell.
Maxwell’s protest carries considerable weight given his background. With an Army veteran for a father, Maxwell grew up in the South where he said he experienced racism firsthand. Maxwell’s tweets reveal his intention was not to disrespect the flag or those who serve or have served this country. His message was directed at President Trump for his antagonistic promotion of a divided country. Maxwell was standing up (or, rather, kneeling down) for those who are affected by President Trump and do not have the public platform Maxwell does to voice their opinions.
All this to say that, as a baseball fan, I’m okay with this. As an American who cares about social justice and civil rights, I will stand behind someone who feels they need to defend their or someone else’s rights. These athletes only have a platform on the national stage for so long, and if they want to use it to spark further conversation about a social issue they feel needs further discussion, I am good with that.
Baseball is a sport that has been labeled by many, including its own players, as a “white man’s sport.” I am refreshed to see that it is accepting a conversation that has to do with defending racial minorities, as seen in the Oakland Athletics’ supportive response to Maxwell’s protest.
I think it is important to mention that Maxwell’s protest, along with many NFL players’ protests lately, has been in response to President Trump’s comments. This differs from the action that former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick participated in when he kneeled during the national anthem last year, which was in response to police brutality. While they are using the same methods to make political statements, the intent is different. The audience must be aware of why athletes are protesting, and athletes, like Maxwell, must be vocal about their particular cause. Otherwise, their message will not be received and no change will come of it.
Thus, as the baseball regular season comes to an end and playoffs soon get put on national broadcasts, I’m excited about seeing the players use their platform to express their ideas if they feel it necessary. If they execute these actions effectively, they will further push the crucial conversation regarding racial inequality within this country.