On Saturday night in Oakland, Athletics rookie catcher Bruce Maxwell became the first MLB player to protest during the national anthem, taking a knee and placing his hand over his heart as it played. Maxwell has said that he plans to continue his protest for the rest of the season; what remains to be seen is if any other players will join him. But one All-Star has already said that, despite being in support of Maxwell's actions and message, he won't be kneeling or doing anything else during the anthem because of the potential response of his team.
"From the feedback that I’ve gotten from my teammates, I don’t think it would be the best thing to do for me, at this time," Rays starter Chris Archer told USA Today on Sunday. "I don’t want to offend anybody. No matter how you explain it or justify it, some people just can’t get past the military element of it and it’s not something I want to do, is ruffle my teammates’ feathers on my personal views that have nothing to do with baseball."
Maxwell is the son of an Army veteran and was born on a military base in Germany; as he told reporters on Saturday, "The point of my kneeling is not to disrespect the military.... My kneeling, the way I did it, was to symbolize the fact that I'm kneeling for a cause, but I'm in no way or form disrespecting my country or my flag." Said Archer: "The way he went about it was totally, I think, as respectful as possible, just letting everybody know that this doesn’t have anything to do with the military, first and foremost, noting that he has family members that are in the military."
Archer—who, like Maxwell, is African-American—also noted that the demographics of baseball make protest that much tougher. "It did take a while in baseball, I think mainly because the other sports that do that are predominantly black," he said. (There were only 62 black players on MLB's Opening Day rosters this year, or roughly 7–8% of the active player pool.) "Our sport isn’t, so I think the criticism might be a little more harsh. It took somebody really special that had a unique background to take that leap."
Despite not joining the protest, though, Archer is on Maxwell's side. "I agree with the message. I believe in equality," he said. "Hopefully we can just have change going forward. We’ve been talking about it enough, but just a change of peoples’ outlook on other people and human rights hopefully happens from this."