Athletics teammates fear what is next as Maxwell takes a knee

ByNick Wagoner ESPN logo
Sunday, September 24, 2017

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Oakland Athletics outfielder Mark Canha doesn't plan to kneel alongside catcher Bruce Maxwell during his teammate's protest of racial inequality in the country, but he does intend to continue putting his hand on Maxwell's shoulder while he kneels.

Before Canha decided on that gesture of support, he took a step back and gave a lot of thought to what it would mean for him and for Maxwell.

Canha, who is from the Bay Area and has a political economy degree from the University of California-Berkeley, pondered all angles, including what's happened to former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who was the first to protest and remains unsigned.

"I hope that that doesn't happen to Bruce," Canha said. "I think it's kind of wrong what's happening to Kaepernick that he doesn't have a job. 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. And I was like, that fear, I thought about Colin Kaepernick and I was like 'Well jeez, I love baseball, I want to play baseball. I love my job, I 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 that we need some change. People shouldn't be afraid to lose their jobs for speaking their minds, for peacefully speaking their minds about social issues. I think the fact that I hesitated for the smallest gesture of just putting my hand on Bruce's shoulder says that we're not where we need to be when it comes to that."

Like Canha, shortstop Marcus Semien is from the Bay Area. He's also a devout 49ers fan, who closely followed Kaepernick's career and what's happened since he began his protest.

"(Kaepernick) is one of my favorite players, I really enjoy watching him play, and I wish he was out there playing," Semien said. "More importantly, the work he's doing in the community and the impact he's had on kids and people who are less fortunate has been great. He should be playing right now."

But Semien doesn't believe that Maxwell should fear for his job moving forward.

"Bruce is our starting catcher," Semien said. "Bruce has been in this organization his entire career. He's worked hard to get the starting job. I think he should be our starting catcher no matter what."

At 26, Maxwell has been in the A's organization since 2012 when they selected him in the second round of the Major League Baseball draft.

Maxwell didn't earn his first promotion to the majors until July 23 of last year, meaning he's still under club control for the foreseeable future. Further, the club designated two-time All-Star catcher Stephen Vogt for assignment in June, in part to give Maxwell an opportunity.

Soon after Maxwell knelt on Saturday night, the A's also released a statement of support, saying "The Oakland A's pride ourselves on being inclusive. We respect and support all of our players' constitutional rights and freedom of expression."

Before Sunday's game against the Texas Rangers, Maxwell declined to speak to media again, but he did speak to Yahoo Sports and said he plans to continue his protest until he sees change.

"I'm going to continue to do it," Maxwell told Yahoo. "This isn't a one-day thing. If things really don't change, I'll roll into it next season. This is an ongoing issue. This is happening across the country. It might take a few more people. It might take a little while. Racism has been going on since this country was founded. But stepping up and recognizing the fact that people in this country are being treated unjustly is a big problem when it comes to mankind, and I'm pretty sure people who died for this country fought so I could do this."

Maxwell has been out of the lineup recently as he deals with concussion symptoms, although manager Bob Melvin said Maxwell is improving. In 71 games this season, Maxwell is hitting .244 with three home runs and 21 RBI.

Despite the A's support and willingness to give Maxwell an opportunity, he has yet to establish himself in the league. Melvin acknowledged Sunday that Maxwell's protest might have been made more difficult because of that.

"It does take a lot of courage because you know that now all of a sudden that potentially the crosshairs are on you, and for a guy that is not as established -- and I'm not speaking for him -- but I'm sure that for him this is a 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. But I think he handled it well, and I think he felt good about it afterwards."

As the debate about why Kaepernick is unemployed rages on, the best way for Maxwell to ensure he doesn't find himself unemployed post-protest is to get healthy and cement himself as the A's long-term catcher.

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