BOSTON — The Mets have agreed to a minor-league deal with catcher Bruce Maxwell, the only major-leaguer to kneel during the national anthem prior to this season, sources said Tuesday.
Maxwell arrived in New York on Monday. His contract is pending a physical and him passing the coronavirus intake testing that all players went through at the beginning of camp early this month.
When his deal becomes official, he is slated to join the Mets’ 60-man player pool and work out at their alternate site, MCU Park in Brooklyn.
This is Maxwell’s first job in affiliated baseball since the end of the 2018 season when the A’s cut him.
He is known best for taking a knee during the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” ahead of A’s games in September 2017 as a way to protest racial injustice. That came a year after then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, his fellow Bay Area pro athlete, did so.
Maxwell, who is Black and whose father is a U.S. military veteran, was a 26-year-old rookie.
"The point of my kneeling is not to disrespect our military," Maxwell told reporters on Sept. 23, 2017, the first day he kneeled. "It's not to disrespect our Constitution. It's not to disrespect our country. My hand was over my heart because I love this country. I've had plenty of family members, including my father, that have bled for this country, that continue to serve for this country. At the end of the day, this is the best country on the planet.”
In October 2017, Maxwell was arrested for felony aggravated assault. He later pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and was sentenced to probation and community service.
When he became a free agent in November 2018, teams weren’t interested.
"It's the kneeling thing that might keep him from getting another job, not the arrest," an anonymous major-league executive told the San Francisco Chronicle in December 2018. "Owners aren't going to want to deal with that whole anthem issue.”
Maxwell believes his actions cost him jobs, telling ESPN recently: “I got pushed out of the game because I took a knee during the national anthem. It eats at me.”
Baseball’s collective attitude toward anthem kneeling has shifted significantly this summer, becoming less controversial and even marketable.
MLB staged Black Lives Matter tributes ahead of every Opening Day game this month, and stars such as Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Hicks of the Yankees and Mookie Betts of the Dodgers have kneeled. For each team’s first game, the letters “BLM” — along with an MLB logo — was stenciled into the back of the mounds. At Fenway Park, the Red Sox have a large “Black Lives Matter” banner — along with another MLB logo — sprawled across the empty outfield seats.
No Mets have kneeled during the national anthem. Manager Luis Rojas and Mets players have said they would respect an individual’s right to do so if he chooses.
In parts of three seasons with the A’s, Maxwell had a .240 average, .314 OBP and .347 slugging percentage in 127 games. He was sent to the minors in 2018 after showing up to spring training overweight. He played in the Mexican League in 2019 and the Dominican Winter League last offseason.
Maxwell is slated to join Ali Sanchez, Patrick Mazeika and David Rodriguez as the depth catchers in the player pool.
The Mets are carrying three catchers on their 30-man active roster: Wilson Ramos, Tomas Nido and Rene Rivera.
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