- Associated Press - Saturday, September 23, 2017

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) - Bruce Maxwell knew that people would be watching, and so he took a knee, pulling baseball into a polarizing protest movement fueled by stars in the NFL, NBA and elsewhere.

Maxwell became the first major league baseball player to kneel during the national anthem before Khris Davis hit his 40th home run to lift the Oakland Athletics over the Texas Rangers 1-0 on Saturday night.

Maxwell dropped to a knee and pressed his cap against his chest just outside Oakland’s dugout during the anthem, adopting a protest started by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in response to police treatment of blacks. The 26-year-old rookie catcher pressed his right hand against his heart, and teammates stood in a line next to him. Teammate Mark Canha, who is white, put his right hand on one of Maxwell’s shoulders, and the two hugged after the anthem finished.

“Everybody watches sports and so everybody loves sports, so I felt this was the right thing for me to do personally,” Maxwell said.

The Athletics released a statement on Twitter shortly after the anthem, saying they “respect and support all of our players’ constitutional rights and freedom of expression” and “pride ourselves on being inclusive.”

Davis became the first A’s player to hit 40 home runs in consecutive seasons since Hall of Famer Jimmy Foxx (1932-34). He’s the fourth player in franchise history with multiple 40-homer seasons. Foxx (3), Mark McGwire (3) and Jose Canseco (2) are the others.

“It’s nice to be mentioned in the presence of Hall of Famers,” Davis said. “I’m just enjoying it and embracing it as much as I can, just trying to help the ballclub win games.”

Davis homered against Miguel Gonzalez (8-12) leading off the second inning as the A’s won their season-high sixth straight game.

Raul Alcantara (1-1) threw five shutout innings of two-hit ball in which he struck out five and allowed two walks in a spot start. He spelled left-hander Sean Manaea who’s experiencing upper back tightness.

A’s closer Blake Treinen pitched a scoreless ninth for his 11th save.

TEXAS TOAST?

The Rangers fell 4 ½ games behind the Minnesota Twins for the second AL wild card. Shortstop Elvis Andrus said the Rangers have to win out their remaining eight games to have any chance of catching the Twins. They’ve lost seven straight in Oakland.

“It is tough, but there’s no other way to go,” Andrus said. “We have to come back tomorrow and win, especially here. We’re having a tough time winning here. Winning tomorrow and heading back home would be really good.”

MAXWELL KNEELS

Maxwell informed A’s manager Bob Melvin and general manager David Forst of his intention to protest the anthem before Saturday’s game, and held a team meeting in which he addressed questions from teammates.

Canha approached Maxwell after the meeting offering support.

“He told everyone before the game what he was going to do and I saw, I could tell he was getting kind of choked up and emotional about his beliefs and how he feels about the racial discrimination that’s going on in this country right now,” Canha said. “I felt like every fiber in my being was telling me that he needed a brother today.”

Maxwell kneeled after President Donald Trump denounced protests by NFL players and rescinded a White House invitation for NBA champion Stephen Curry in a two-day rant that targeted top professional athletes. Maxwell was active on social media Saturday, criticizing the president and predicting that athletes in other sports will join the protest in response to Trump’s remarks.

“This now has gone from just a BlackLives Matter topic to just complete inequality of any man or woman that wants to stand for Their rights!” Maxwell wrote.

The league released a statement: “Major League Baseball has a longstanding tradition of honoring our nation prior to the start of our games. We also respect that each of our players is an individual with his own background, perspectives and opinions. We believe that our game will continue to bring our fans, their communities and our players together.”

TRAINER’S ROOM

Rangers: Manager Jeff Banister left the team Saturday morning to be with his ill mother, Verda, in Clear Lake, Texas. Bench coach Steve Buechele will manage the team through Sunday. … RHP Keone Kela (right shoulder soreness) was cleared to pitch for the first time since going on the DL on Aug. 5.

Athletics: OF Chad Pinder was out of the lineup after crashing into the center-field wall Friday. The A’s are concerned he suffered from whiplash, manager Bob Melvin said. … OF Boog Powell (knee) took batting practice on Saturday but is doubtful for the rest of the Texas series. … Maxwell was out of the lineup and was scheduled to undergo concussion protocol tests on Saturday, Melvin said.

UP NEXT

Rangers: LHP Martin Perez (12-11, 4.70 ERA) is 7-1 with a 3.14 ERA in his last night starts and 6-6 with a 5.03 ERA in 14 starts against Oakland.

Athletics: RHP Jharel Cotton (8-10, 5.81 ERA) is 2-1 with a 3.44 ERA in three career starts against Texas. He missed his last start with a groin strain.

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More AP baseball coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball

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