Athletics tried to re-sign Bruce Maxwell — the first MLB player to take a knee — but Maxwell said no


The Oakland Athletics wanted to bring back Bruce Maxwell this spring, but Maxwell turned them down. The team reportedly reached out to Maxwell — the first MLB player to take a knee during the anthem — before the season was postponed, according to Howard Bryant of ESPN.

The 29-year-old Maxwell — who is currently living in Mexico — told the team no.

During spring training before the season abruptly shut down, the A's needed catching. Maxwell's agent, fearsome former Oakland pitcher Dave Stewart, suggested Maxwell. Melvin, general manager David Forst and executive vice president Billy Beane all agreed to bring him back to the majors. The exile was over -- and Maxwell turned them down. He would not go back, to the A's or to America. He was happier in Mexico.

Maxwell goes on to explain he still had “pent-up feelings” about playing for Oakland. Maxwell also believed the A’s were doing former pitcher Dave Stewart — Maxwell’s agent — a favor by speaking with Maxwell about a return.

Maxwell also expressed frustration over how the league responded to his peaceful protest in 2017 compared to how the league is handling the situation now. Maxwell said he was “bitter as f---.”

"The season's gonna resume. They're going to get more fame because it's going to look like they're standing up for what's right," Maxwell says. "They're making T-shirts and they're showing they care, but they don't go back to the original sacrificed person. Where was all of this then? It's easy to talk because everyone's talking. I was out there by myself. I'm bitter as f---, and I'm not hiding it."

Maxwell started taking a knee during the 2017 MLB season, his rookie season. No other MLB joined Maxwell’s protest. Maxwell called out other Black MLB players like Chris Archer and Andrew McCutchen, asking where they were when he was kneeling in 2017.

Maxwell stopped kneeling prior to the 2018 season. He received 58 plate appearances with the Athletics before he was sent down to the minors. He joined the Mexican Baseball League in 2019.

Between the 2017 and 2018 season, Maxwell was arrested for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and disorderly conduct after allegedly pointing a gun at a Postmates delivery person. The aggravated assault charge was later dropped after the state agreed Maxwell did not point his gun at the delivery person.

Current and former Black MLB players set up a group chat this offseason to discuss issues around the league. The chat initially started so players could talk about the coronavirus. It shifted its focus to racial injustice and police brutality after George Floyd was killed, according to Bryant. That group reportedly reached out to Maxwell to see if he would join.

That group started The Players Alliance, which is dedicated to “building an inclusive culture and equitable systems in order to change the trajectory of diversity throughout baseball,” according to its website.

While a number of players have spoken up about racial issues — both societal and within baseball — this spring, Bryant says the New York Yankees are “subtly discouraging” Aaron Judge from speaking out on issues and encouraging him to be more like Derek Jeter, who was rarely outspoken as a player. Jeter, however, did issue a statement following Floyd’s death.

Though MLB appears more receptive to player protests, Judge’s issue suggests not every team is fully comfortable with players speaking out. It also says something that Maxwell — the first MLB player to kneel — feels more comfortable continuing his career in Mexico instead of returning to the A’s.

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Originally published