America didn’t have to wait until Sunday to see if sports stars and celebrities would take a knee in defiance of President Donald Trump.
An Oakland Athletics baseball player became the first major leaguer to take a knee during the national anthem on Saturday.
Later that same evening, pop music legend Stevie Wonder began his appearance at a concert in New York’s Central Park by dropping down to one knee in an act he said was ‘for America.’
In Oakland, Athletics rookie catcher Bruce Maxwell knelt as he held his baseball cap against the left side of his torso during the singing of the national anthem before his team’s game against the Texas Rangers at the Oakland Coliseum.
Teammate Mark Canha placed his hand on Maxwell’s shoulder.
Earlier in the day, Maxwell posted a number of tweets denouncing Trump for saying that the NFL should bar players who knelt during the anthem in protest of police shootings of African Americans.
He also hinted that he would take a knee during the anthem – a gesture that no other professional baseball player has made since the trend was first started last year by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Maxwell, who is black, tweeted earlier Saturday: ‘Don’t be surprised if you start seeing athletes kneeling in other sports now!! Comments like that coming from our president. WOW!’
He also tweeted: ‘Yeah I bet [Trump] doesn’t step to Kaepernick in person and call him and the other protesters a “son of a b***h.” Ignorance from our Pres.’
‘Inequality is being displayed bigger than ever right now as our president shows that freeedom of protest and speech is not allowed,’ he tweeted.
Maxwell’s team, the Athletics, issued a statement on Twitter supporting their player’s decision to kneel during the anthem.
‘The Oakland A’s pride ourselves on being inclusive. We respect and support all our players’ constitutional rights and freedom of expression.’
Maxwell was born in Wiesbaden, Germany, where his father was stationed as a soldier in the Army, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
He grew up in Alabama and defines himself as a patriotic American.
‘Bruce’s father is a proud military lifer,’ his agent, Matt Sosnick, told the Chronicle.
‘Anyone who knows Bruce or his parents is well aware that the Maxwells’ love and appreciation for our country is indisputable.
‘Bruce has made it clear that he is taking a stand about what he perceives as racial injustices in this country, and his personal disappointment with President Trump’s response to a number of professional athletes’ totally peaceful, non-violent protests.
‘Bruce has shared with both me and his teammates that his feelings have nothing to do with a lack of patriotism or a hatred of any man, but rather everything to do with equality for men, women and children regardless of race or religion.’
Meanwhile, on the opposite coast of the United States, pop legend Stevie Wonder began his set at the Global Citizen Festival in New York’s Central Park by declaring: ‘I’m taking a knee for America.’
Wonder then dropped down to both knees as he was helped by his son, Kwame Morris.
Footage of the dramatic moment was captured by MSNBC, which broadcast the event.
Both Wonder and Maxwell became trending topics on Twitter after a day in which professional athletes reacted with anger to Trump’s comments on Friday about protesting football players.
Trump and the sports world engaged in an intensifying spat on Saturday after he called for National Football League owners to fire players who protest during the national anthem and disinvited a National Basketball Association star from a White House visit.
Responding to Trump’s attacks on football players who protested during the national anthem, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said on Saturday that Trump’s statements revealed ‘unfortunate lack of respect’ for the NFL and its players.
Goodell’s statement was released a day after Trump suggested any protesting football player was a ‘son of a b***h’ and should lose his job.
‘Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, “Get that son of a b***h off the field right now… He is fired”,’ Trump said on Friday at a rally for Alabama Senate Republican candidate Luther Strange.
Later on Saturday, Trump said in Twitter messages, that if NFL players wanted ‘the privilege’ of high salaries they ‘should stand for the National Anthem. If not, YOU‘RE FIRED. Find something else to do!’
Kaepernick stirred a polarizing national debate in 2016 after refusing to stand during pre-game renditions of the Star Spangled Banner to protest police violence against African-Americans.
Several players have made similar gestures of protest before games since Kaepernick initiated his protest.
As commissioner, Goodell reports to NFL owners, some of whom have supported Trump in the past.