Athletics' Semien Won't Be Surprised if More MLB Players Take a Knee in 2020

John Hickey

Who will follow Bruce Maxwell?

You will remember Maxwell as the Oakland A’s catcher who, in 2017, became the first and to this point only, Major League Baseball player to take a knee against police brutality and racism during the National Anthem.

It was before a Sept. 23 game in the Coliseum against the Texas Rangers that Maxwell made his move. San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick had set the stage for athletes in all sports to go to one knee during the national anthem.

On that day, while Maxwell was the only man on the field to kneel, he wasn’t completely alone. His teammates generally supported him; outfielder Mark Canha stood next to him with his left hand on Maxwell’s shoulder. The team issued a statement of support.

No Major Leaguer followed Maxwell in either of the last two seasons. That may be about to change.

As protests continue in the wake of the George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery deaths, there’s a good chance protesters will still be on the streets when baseball gets back on the field on the weekend of July 23. Taking a knee has moved back to center stage nationally.

The National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) was the first American team sport to start up on Saturday with its Challenge Cup, and the first game, North Carolina vs. Portland, saw all players on both teams taking a knee during the anthem. 

When baseball hears its first National Anthem a month from now, will others be following Maxwell, who is now playing baseball in Mexico, by taking a knee?

A’s shortstop Marcus Semien, in an interview with theathletic.com’s Ken Rosenthal, suggested more players will take a knee.

I think people have spoken out. Bruce Maxwell, my teammate, took a knee,” Semien said. “At the time, a lot of people didn’t like it. I wonder what people would have thought this year if they saw Bruce Maxwell do that. That has kind of made me mad, the way that Bruce was screamed at by fans. It was hard for me to see.

“I think we will see a little bit more of it. We already have seen a lot of people on social media, with videos. Now that we have a platform with the season starting, we’ll be on TV every day and every night, I think you’ll see a little bit more.”

Semien, San Francisco-born and East Bay-raised, is bi-racial. His father is black; his mother is white. He played baseball in Berkeley at the University of California, then after being drafted by the Chicago White Sox, spent much of his minor league time playing throughout the South.

“I kind of had tunnel vision throughout the entire minor leagues,” Semien said. “Playing in the South – Birmingham, Winston-Salem, Kannapolis, Charlotte – the entire time I just hand tunnel vision going from the field back to the apartment or wherever I was staying.”

Semien, who finished third in the American League MVP race in 2019, suggests the time for tunnel vision is over.

“There’s a bigger problem here right now with the injustice,” Semien said. “Just shining a bigger light is probably something I will do and some of my teammates will do, I assume. I think we’re already on the right track.

“But when you see people dying in your own community, the Black community, in Oakland or somewhere else, it’s time to shine a light on that, figure out why this is happening and change that.”

Follow Athletics insider John Hickey on Twitter: @JHickey3

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