Bruce Maxwell was barely home in Huntsville, Alabama, when he met a rude welcome. Out to lunch with Huntsville city councilman Devyn Keith and another friend, the catcher for the Oakland Athletics who knelt during the national anthem was recognized by a waiter who then refused his table service.
Maxwell ordered a beer with his meal, and the waiter asked for driver’s licenses from everyone at the table, Keith said. When he saw Maxwell’s ID, the waiter told the group he wouldn’t serve them.
“He said, ‘You are that guy. You are the guy who took a knee,’” Keith said. “And then everything changed.”
“He goes, ‘I voted for Trump,’” Maxwell told TMZ Sports, “‘and I stand for everything he stands for.’ And I was like, ‘Oh, really?’ And our councilman went and got their manager and had some words with him and took him off of our table and put us another person on our table. That’s where I’m from.”
Maxwell told The Washington Post in a text message, “I’m really over that happening, and it’s BS.”
Keith, a 27-year-old Democrat, called the episode “an embarrassment.” He and Maxwell promised the restaurant’s management they wouldn’t publicize its name so people would continue to support local businesses.
“I believe in the fact that this was an idiot doing a stupid thing than a small business doing something wrong,” Keith said.
President Donald Trump held a rally for a failed Senate candidate in Huntsville in September where he denounced NFL players who knelt in protest during the national anthem, referring to those who do as a “son of a bitch” and calling on team owners to fire them.
The next day, Maxwell knelt during the national anthem before the Athletics’ 1-0 win against Texas in Oakland. He is the first and only Major League Baseball player to kneel during “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
“My decision had been coming for a long time,” Maxwell said after the game, citing his own experiences with racism while growing up in Huntsville. “The only way we can come together is by informing. … To single out NFL players for doing this isn’t something we should be doing — I felt it should be a little more broad.”
Maxwell vowed to continue demonstrating during the anthem into next season. The Athletics supported their catcher in a brief statement.
“The Oakland A’s pride ourselves on being inclusive,” the team said. “We respect and support all our players’ constitutional rights and freedom of expression.”
Maxwell grew up in Huntsville in a military family — he was born on an American military installation in Germany while his father was stationed there with the Army — and starred for Sparkman High School in town, then played college baseball at Birmingham-Southern, an hour and a half south.
He and Keith went to high school together.
Maxwell’s protests drew confusion and ire out of friends and neighbors in the city of 193,000 people, which Trump won in the 2016 election by a 16-point margin.