Cubs weigh in on Bruce Maxwell, MLB’s first player to kneel in protest

MILWAUKEE — Cubs reliever Carl Edwards Jr. has an insider’s point of view with regard to Bruce Maxwell, the Oakland A’s catcher who took a knee during the national anthem Saturday. Edwards calls Maxwell a ‘‘great guy’’ and one of his best friends.

But does he support Maxwell’s actions in becoming the first major-leaguer to follow in the footsteps of former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick?

‘‘I’m behind it, too, but it’s not something I would do,’’ Edwards said. ‘‘I play this game because of love. There’s nothing bad about what Bruce did, but I don’t really follow that stuff. It’s just how the world is now.’’

Shortstop Addison Russell played with Maxwell in the A’s farm system and describes him as a ‘‘cool, chill dude.’’ Russell is pleased to see Maxwell receiving support from the A’s organization, but how would he feel if a member of the Cubs followed in Maxwell’s footsteps?

Oakland A's catcher Bruce Maxwell is the first major league player to take a knee in peaceful protest. (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

‘‘Hopefully, a teammate would be kind of conscious of warning the team before doing that,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s a pretty bold move, I feel like, and we definitely want to back up our teammates, that’s for sure. Just let it be known. If you’re feeling some type of a way, then I guess as teammates and friends we definitely have to back him up.’’

Not all of the Cubs were willing discuss an issue that has been a hot potato since Kaepernick took a knee in support of Black Lives Matter and in protest of police violence against black people — and has exploded in its divisiveness, thanks in large part to the president and tweeter-in-chief of the United States.

Your thoughts on Maxwell, Anthony Rizzo?

‘‘I play first base for the Chicago Cubs,’’ he said.

Asked whether he would support a teammate who felt the need to protest as Maxwell did, Rizzo didn’t exactly elaborate.

‘‘I play first base for the Cubs,’’ he repeated.

Catcher Alex Avila was blunt, too, but a bit more nuanced.

‘‘I don’t really give a [bleep] what you do or how you live your life as long as you produce on the field,’’ he said. ‘‘That’s your right and your prerogative. You get the freedom to make your own decisions. As a teammate, being in the clubhouse is very much like a family: We support each other no matter what.’’

If a Cubs player does put himself — even with the postseason drawing near, presumably — at the intersection of sports and public activism, he won’t have to worry about president of baseball operations Theo Epstein getting all bent out of shape.

‘‘Like our country, our team is a collection of individuals with different backgrounds and beliefs,’’ Epstein said via text, ‘‘and it is better for its diversity. I support our players’ rights to express their opinions in any peaceful and respectful manner they choose.’’

Manager Joe Maddon has no rules when it comes to the anthem. He allows players to duck into the clubhouse or anywhere else out of sight during that time, and many of them take advantage. Would one of his players taking a knee on the grass, as the crowd sang and the flag waved, be a different story?

‘‘If [a player] does, that’s fine,’’ he said. ‘‘I have no issues. I’m all into self-expression. If a player feels he needs to express himself in that matter, then so be it.’’

Outfielder Albert Almora Jr., like most of his teammates, it seems, is trying to stay away from the whole issue. But he gets the final word here:

‘‘I respect what [Maxwell] is doing; I respect everybody that’s doing it. As an American, I just want to see everybody come together.’’

Contributing: Gordon Wittenmyer

Follow me on Twitter @SLGreenberg.

Email: sgreenberg@suntimes.com

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