Oakland Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell kneels during the National Anthem.
Eric Risberg / AP
Bruce Maxwell of the Oakland Athletics stood next to his team on the field, faced the American flag and took a knee Saturday for the national anthem, becoming the first Major League Baseball player to use the protest gesture.
The move came after President Trump took aim at professional athletes for refusing to stand for the national anthem. By taking a knee during the A's game against the Texas Rangers, the 26-year-old catcher brought America’s pastime into the political fray.
Maxwell held his green cap over his heart as the team stood on the foul line of the Oakland field. Immediately after he stood, he was hugged by left-fielder Mark Canha.
Moments later, The A's released a statement supporting “all of our players' constitutional rights and freedom of expression.”
Maxwell's protest came after Trump appeared to criticize NFL free agent Colin Kaepernick and dozens of other athletes who have protested police shootings by taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem before games.
The president told a crowd gathered Friday night in Alabama he would “love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, 'get that son of a bitch off the field right now. He’s fired. He’s fired!'”
He continued Saturday in a series of tweets.
“If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL, or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect our Great American Flag,” Trump wrote.
The president's public squabble with professional athletes went even further Saturday when he rescinded an invitation for Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors to visit the White House.
The president's decision to lash out against players, however, prompted athletes, teams and its owners to respond, most of them expressing support for Curry and his decision not to visit the White House.
“I don’t want to be applauded on my accomplishments on the court when the guy that would be doing the pat on the back, I don’t think, respects the majority of Americans in this country,” Curry told reporters at a press conference Saturday.
Several NFL players have also expressed the intention of protesting in a similar fashion during Sunday's games.