There's No Kneeling in Baseball

Reflections on Bruce Maxwell’s Former Stance

Lindsey Smith

At the center of a stadium that seats 56,000, and with the hand of a teammate supportively on his shoulder, one BSC alum took action that caught the world’s attention.

On September 23, 2017, Bruce Maxwell, a former BSC baseball player and current starting catcher for the Oakland Athletics, became the first Major League Baseball player to kneel during the national anthem. Maxwell’s actions came in response to the movement started by NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick in protest of police violence towards minorities. As the son of a military family, Maxwell emphasized afterwards that he intended no disrespect towards our country, evident by his hand kept over his heart throughout the anthem. Instead, he hoped to counter the negative comments made toward professional athletes by President Trump earlier that week.

As the political implications of Maxwell’s actions swarmed news cycles, members of Birmingham-Southern’s community took notice. His actions sparked a variety of responses from students that display the diversity of opinions here at BSC.

“It is moderately cool that the first person to kneel was from our small liberal arts college in Birmingham, Alabama,” says Katherine Odle, a senior on the swim team. “Graduates of BSC are held to a high standard, which more than adequately prepares us to take on the career world. Hearing about the success of alumni is always fun because I hope to one day do something that reflects highly of BSC and the education that I received here on the Hilltop.”

Others, however, do not appreciate the attention that Maxwell brought to the school. This comes, in part, because Maxwell was arrested shortly after kneeling for allegedly pulling a gun on a food delivery woman.

“If you’re going to put BSC’s name out there and then get in trouble like he did, that’s a real issue,” says one BSC baseball player. “That makes the program look bad, makes the coach look bad, and makes the school look bad. It takes away all your good intentions and cancels everything out.”

The same player notes that while the BSC baseball team plays the national anthem before every game, none of the players have ever thought about kneeling. Though the players have varying political stances, the general consensus of the team is that the flag and the anthem are not things to be disrespected; there are other ways to voice concern.

Another player comments that Maxwell’s actions are not surprising, especially since he comes from a small, private liberal arts college where his professors likely encouraged him to express his opinions in such an open way.

“The team, and coaches, were all a little embarrassed because most of us do not agree with him kneeling for the anthem,” says the player. “This is nothing against Bruce, but we just felt like he was trying to put himself in the spotlight.”

Maxwell kneeled for the anthem through the remainder of the A’s 2017 season. At the beginning of the 2018 season, however, he announced that he would no longer kneel. This came with no explanation as to why.

Bob Melvin, the manager of the Athletics, commented to Oakland reporter Martin Gallegos that he believes Maxwell did this to take himself out of the spotlight while he dealt with legal trouble, a theory in-line with that of the aforementioned players.

Nevertheless, Maxwell remains Oakland’s starting catcher, an amazing feat for a Birmingham-Southern alum.