National Anthem Protests Grow Amidst Recent Trump Comments
Before the Oakland A’s and Texas Rangers game on Sept. 23rd, A’s catcher Bruce Maxwell became the first Major League Baseball player to kneel during the national anthem; joining a long string of protests most commonly seen in the National Football League, started by Colin Kaepernick. After the game in Oakland, Maxwell addressed the press to detail the intentions of his protest, and his contribution to the ongoing dialogue.
“The point of my kneeling is not to disrespect our military, it’s not to disrespect our Constitution, it’s not to disrespect this country,” Maxwell explained. “My hand over my heart symbolizes the fact that I am and I’ll forever be an American citizen, and I’m more than grateful to be here.” Maxwell comes from a military family, and was born in Wiesbaden, Germany during his father’s military service with the U.S. Army.
Protests within various professional sport communities have escalated amidst President Trump’s twitter activity and remarks made at a rally in Alabama. Here the president criticized the Golden State Warrior’s unwillingness to visit the White House following their NBA Finals victory last spring. He also suggested that NFL owners go so far as to fire their players who choose to kneel during the national anthem.
The President’s remarks had a large impact on the NFL teams who were playing on Sunday, with several changes from the usual protests. During the London game, played at Wembley Stadium, the entire Jaguars and Ravens teams interlocked arms on their respective sidelines during the American national anthem, then returned to a traditional standing, hand over heart pose for the British national anthem.
Members of the New England Patriots began kneeling, marking the first time members of this team have protested. Additionally, team owner Robert Kraft and star quarterback Tom Brady made comments criticizing Trump’s recent outburst — which is important given the friendship shared amongst them. The entire Steelers team, except for offensive lineman Alejandro Villanueva who is a former U.S. Army captain and Army Ranger, remained inside the locker room during the anthem. Overall, the number of players protesting during the national anthem grew tremendously this weekend.
In addition to increased participation, the spread of the protests to different sports is evidence that these actions are having an effect. Throughout the past year, with the protests centralized in the NFL, this issue was easier to ignore — particularly with Colin Kaepernick still out of an NFL job. With the protests spreading, and more skilled and indispensable players — including Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcom Jenkins, Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett, and Bennett’s brother Martellus, tight end for the Green Bay Packers — joining in, the conversation is certain to continue. In addition to the (silent) anthem protests, activism has become a part of the movement, with Jenkins participating in many efforts to reduce social injustice in Philadelphia.
It will be interesting to see if more MLB players begin to protest in the wake of Maxwell’s decision. Maxwell has also mentioned that he plans to continue kneeling throughout the rest of the season. Oakland’s first baseman, Mark Canha, placed his hand on Maxwell’s shoulder in a show of support, another common trend seen in the NFL.
The ultimate goal of the protests is to put the pressure on elected officials to take tangible steps towards reducing the social injustice acknowledgeable in American society. Hopefully, with the help of other athletes using their fame and voice, our country will become one we can all be unequivocally proud of.
A previous version of this article can also be seen on checkdownsports.com