After more than 50 years, the Oakland A’s announced their departure from the city last year, leaving Oakland bereft of its sports teams after the flight of the Warriors in 2019 and the Raiders in 2020. To the dismay of fans, the A’s plan to temporarily relocate to a minor league stadium in Sacramento before permanently moving to Las Vegas in the 2028 season. Former A’s catcher Bruce Maxwell joins Edge of Sports to discuss the move, its impact on the local community and workers, and the trajectory of his own career and the place of the A’s in his life story.

Studio Production: David Hebden
Post-Production: Taylor Hebden
Audio Post-Production: David Hebden
Opening Sequence: Cameron Granadino
Music by: Eze Jackson & Carlos Guillen


Transcript

The following is a rushed transcript and may contain errors. A proofread version will be made available as soon as possible.

Dave Zirin:

Welcome to Edge of Sports, the TV show only on The Real News Network. I’m Dave Zirin.

We are talking baseball right now with former Oakland A’s and current Mexican League catcher, Bruce Maxwell. If that name rings a bell, it might be because Maxwell was the first Major League Baseball player to take a knee during the National Anthem in protest of racist police violence.

We’ll be speaking to Maxwell about the Oakland A’s temporary move next year to a minor-league ballpark in Sacramento, and their 2028 move to Las Vegas. In other words, the death of baseball in Oakland. Let’s speak with him now.

Bruce Maxwell, thank you so much for joining us here on Edge of Sports TV.

Bruce Maxwell:

Hey, good to see you, Dave. I appreciate the invite.

Dave Zirin:

Oh man, there’s so much I want to talk to you about. But before we talk Oakland baseball, can you give my listeners and my viewers just a sense of where you are right now, and what your baseball life is like?

Bruce Maxwell:

Well, I’m currently in Monterrey, Mexico at Monterrey Nuevo León. I’m now coaching with the Toros de Tijuana. It’s another team in the Mexican League Baseball in the summer. Quick turnaround for me; I was just a player last week for a different team, and things didn’t work out so well. They didn’t see me in their future plan, so they sent me home.

And as I was headed home, the GM for this team who I know very well, he called me and offered me a coaching job. So now I’m here in Monterrey, preparing for Opening Day tonight against the Sultanes in Monterrey, and continuing my love for the game, man.

Dave Zirin:

Amazing. It’s certainly a love I share. No matter how much the people who are in charge of the game try to mess it up, somehow the game is still the game.

Bruce Maxwell:

Exactly, exactly.

Dave Zirin:

Wow. So before we talk about Oakland baseball, I did an intro where I spoke about your incredible history where you kneeled during the anthem in such a conservative sport that is baseball. I just wanted to give you the chance to speak on it. Why did you take that move? Why did you kneel during the anthem?

Bruce Maxwell:

When it comes to that, man, these things are very important. That’s a bigger-than-baseball stance that I took.

Growing up where I grew up in Alabama, being biracial, me and my sister being very athletic, we grew up in similar circumstances to those of which can’t have their voices be heard. The racial profiling, the unfair treatment because of skin color. And with my sister and I, we actually got bad things from both sides of our race: because we weren’t enough of one or we’re too much of the other.

So it was difficult, especially me being the male. It was difficult for me growing up and being the only Black player on my team, literally almost my whole life. I think my junior year of college, I had a freshman who was a young African-American kid. And then in pro ball, they’re very scattered.

Most of the guys, when you turn on the TV that you see that are darker-skinned or whatever, most of them are Latin guys. And so as the numbers have decreased since … hell, in the last 30, 40 years, the significant decrease is something that’s important.

But also in our country, a lot of people don’t understand because they’re not in areas or they’re not affected by it. And we live in a society where if it doesn’t bother your life, it doesn’t really matter.

And I think as athletes, no matter what sports you play, I feel like our job is to speak up for the ones who can’t speak, or can’t be heard because their platform and their influence is not big enough. We put athletes on a higher pedestal than the President of the United States in this country.

Dave Zirin:

Yeah.

Bruce Maxwell:

And as those influences, as those ballplayers, I feel like it’s our duty to also stand up for the regular people, the little people that we once were in life.

It’s much bigger than the game. It’s much bigger than my salary. It was much bigger than the hate that I received and the problems thereafter. But I still work in that space. I still tend to Latin and African-American ballplayers as young men, as ballplayers. I work with kids here in Mexico because I speak the language.

I have guys that I work with that are Dominican. I have a couple Cuban kids, then I have also African-Americans and other youth in the United States. So I still live in my truth. I still stand for what’s right, and it’s how my parents raised me.

No matter how difficult it may be or no matter the consequences, you have to have a strong sense of character. And even though you might be the only one standing for what’s right means a whole lot more than moving with the crowd.

Dave Zirin:

Yeah, let’s talk about consequences. Because I’ve always been of the belief that you paid a price for it in terms of your career in Major League Baseball. Feel free to agree or disagree with that. Do you think that’s been one of the consequences?

Bruce Maxwell:

Yeah, I agree 100%. I definitely agree. Like you said, it’s a very conservative sport. And again, it’s kind of the whole reason I’m down here in Mexico playing. At the time, I was very, very solid with my analytics and my numbers defensively. I was a very solid catcher in the big leagues. And after that, it changed how people saw me.

It was no longer about my play; I could go out and play very well, and it really didn’t matter. And it happened with the Mets when I went back in 2020, 2021. I was playing well. I was doing well, but I just wasn’t getting the opportunities to really play. And they had no intentions of taking me to the big leagues or giving me a shot back in the big leagues. I was just kind of there as a just-in-case.

And therefore I was like, “All right, well, if I’m going to play, then I want to go somewhere where I actually play and I can contribute.” And so I just came back down here where I’m respected. I’ve played a whole lot, and I’ve got some championships down here to prove it.

Dave Zirin:

Wow. It is a damning comment on Major League Baseball, especially the way they bathe themselves in the memory of people like Jackie Robinson and Roberto Clemente, that they’ve treated you in such a way.

Bruce Maxwell:

Yeah.

Dave Zirin:

And I just wanted to say that.

Bruce Maxwell:

Yeah, it’s tough to see. Because you don’t see a whole lot of difference being made, outside of going to cities and giving out free stuff and maybe appearing a time or two or whatever. But the game is still the same. They still frown upon it, and the environment makes it tough for people of the minority to really speak their minds and stand up for what they actually truly believe in, because they’re in fear of consequences.

So it’s a tough world, man. But slowly, I feel like if you want to really make a change, you first have to put yourself in that environment of change, and change it from the ground up. And that’s what I’m trying to do.

Dave Zirin:

Wow. I’m going to put some church organ music behind you with that last answer. That was beautiful.

Yo, so I want to talk to you about the Oakland A’s, their move to Sacramento, and then their subsequent move that’s coming up in 2028 to Las Vegas. You’re the person I wanted to ask this: what was your impression when you played for the A’s of Oakland as a baseball town?

Bruce Maxwell:

It was incredible, the environment. I’m a big history buff when it comes to baseball. My dad’s favorite team was the Oakland A’s, and my dad’s from Indiana. It’s just with that team, it’s history. It’s one of the oldest organizations in baseball.

The players that have come through there, the winning environment, what they’ve done for the City of Oakland itself, it’s really given the community a staple in a sports team. And that’s something that you cannot allow to leave. You cannot allow that to move to another area.

Because now you’re turning Oakland into almost like a wasteland when it comes to sports. They lost the Warriors, the Raiders moved, this, that and the other. But I feel like the Oakland A’s have been more of a pillar of the community than either one of those teams.

It’s upsetting. And honestly, it’s bothersome to see that being allowed to happen. It’s like taking the Cubs out of Chicago. It’s like taking the Dodgers out of LA. It can’t happen. It can’t happen. So it’s devastating to see their moves, and the fact that they’re allowing it to happen because of greed, and because of the lack of stature when it comes to the City of Oakland.

Dave Zirin:

Yeah. What does this say about John Fisher, the owner of the team? He inherited all the money from Gap clothing. That’s where his $3.3 billion come from; that’s his net worth. What does it say about John Fisher, that he’s so willing to remove the team from Oakland? When he clearly has the financial means to keep them there as long as he wants to?

Bruce Maxwell:

It just says that he’s selfish, and it’s about as clear as I can be with that. It’s the fact that the fans in the City of Oakland have seen him gouge our prospects and our players over the years. And then the Oakland A’s fans have still been loyal and stayed loyal while watching their very players be All-Stars and important players for other teams.

The fact that he has the financial means to move the team, but not the financial means to upgrade the stadium, to upgrade the locker rooms, the field itself, to put more money into the contracts of players, to keep fans coming and wanting to support the Oakland A’s. The fans took a stand, and I would too in that situation, especially again for such a historical team.

These people in Oakland, man: they grow up and teach their kids the love of the Oakland A’s. Even to this day, it’s a culture up there. It’s not just another team. And I think with John Fisher, he doesn’t care.

At the end of the day, he doesn’t care about the workers who’ve been working there for 40 years. He doesn’t care about the kids and the grandparents and the great-grandparents that have been coming to Oakland A’s games, that have had season tickets for 40 years. He doesn’t care about that. He wants new and shiny things, but he could easily have made those shiny things in Oakland. He just didn’t want to be there.

And for him to be able to move the team without batting an eye, it’s disappointing and it’s upsetting for the people of Oakland. But also for a lot of us that … I can’t speak for everybody else, but it saddens me. I played seven years with that organization, and the whole time it was history. You have Rickey Henderson, Dave Stewart, Vida Blue, all these guys coming in to spring training, working with the kids. So [inaudible 00:11:50] right? All of that is because of the Oakland A’s.

It’s not because, “Oh, they’re just big leaguers.” No, they spend a good chunk of their careers playing for this team, winning for this team. And it’s part of their lives. So to see it be uprooted to a new place for whatever the reason may be, it’s bothersome.

Dave Zirin:

I’m really glad you mentioned the stadium workers. Because as awful as it is to move the team, there have been some articles about how generations of people have worked for that team. And Fisher’s disregard for them is just another mark against him to me, as somebody who cares about the sport. I mean, clearly he does not.

Bruce Maxwell:

He doesn’t. I went back this off season. I was coaching kids with a couple of my former teammates in Palo Alto. And when I got there, I went to an A’s game within about a week, just go see my coaches and things. Because when I was there, the coaches are the same: minus Bob Melvin, but they’re the same.

And I walked up in the players area, and same security guards. They gave me a big old hug. They were like, “Great to see you. It’s been forever.”

Mind you, I haven’t been in the big leagues since 2018. I don’t remember their names, but 100% they remember me: the people that man the parking lot, the people that check you before you go into the locker room, the people on the field, the grounds crew. I spent most of my time talking to all those people, because those are the people that make the difference in our days every day.

And so for him to be able to uproot that team and put all of those people out of a job just willingly, it’s upsetting and it’s cruel. At the end of the day, it’s cruel.

Dave Zirin:

It is cruel. You know the area well. What are your opinions about the fact that until 2028, they’re going to be playing in a minor-league park in Sacramento? People watching in lawn chairs, God bless them.

Also, they’re not going to be known as the Sacramento A’s or the Oakland A’s. They’re taking the city’s name off of it, and just they’re going to go by the A’s: which to me just feels like a wretched scrawling on the history of Major League Baseball. But please, your thoughts.

Bruce Maxwell:

It is. It very much so is. Because without Oakland, there would be no A’s, period.

Dave Zirin:

Right.

Bruce Maxwell:

You can’t carry that name if you’re going to move the team. And so they’re going to move to Sacramento. Sacramento is … When it comes to big-league protocol, it’s not even close.

So instead of putting money into the stadium you already have that holds history with Rickey Henderson, Dave Stewart on the mountaintop, all these things, you’re going to go out and have to shell out even more money potentially to renovate that stadium to make it quote-unquote big-league protocol.

And you’re in Sacramento. It’s not a major-league park. Even when you renovate it, it’s not going to be a major-league park. So you’re basically downgrading your big-league team even more than it was already in Oakland.

Because I’ve heard from a lot of players over my years, they call the Oakland A’s were four-A, and everybody else is in the big leagues: because of the stadium, because of the locker rooms, because of the field, because of the dugouts, because they feel like they’re not playing in a big-league ballpark.

And so you’re more than willing to put in all this money to renovate Sacramento Stadium, and then go get a new one in Vegas. But you can’t put the same energy and effort into preserving the historic team in the very city that made it what it is today.

Dave Zirin:

Wow. This is a question that I think you are uniquely positioned to answer. We’ve already touched on it a little bit, but we’ve seen some players be public in their disgust with the move. And they’ve been punished.

One player sent to the minors, another player who is the sole All-Star on the team sent to the bench just because they wore little macrame bracelets in solidarity with a group that wants to keep the team in Oakland.

Why can’t baseball just allow some free thinking among players?

Bruce Maxwell:

Because-

Dave Zirin:

Why is that so terrible?

Bruce Maxwell:

Because there is no free thinking. Major League Baseball is always and will forever be a very controlled sport. We’re expendable. And the fact that we have a gigantic minor-league system; we have a draft every single year; it makes players expendable. So nobody really wants to share their true thoughts because their job’s on the line.

And when you play for organizations like Oakland, where they’re very nitpicky about what you say and how you say it, this, that, and the other, it’s very difficult for you to really get at people’s true thoughts about what’s going on.

You have a kid, Ruiz, who got sent down. And they gave him some things to work on for him to get back in the starting lineup. But he was hitting .430 when they sent him down in the big leagues after also setting the rookie record for stolen bases last year, and hitting about .280. All because of a bracelet.

I feel like when you play for a team, especially in the big leagues on a stage like that, it’s our job as players to engage and to stand with our community outside of the ballpark. It’s a very, very bad move.

Dave Zirin:

[inaudible 00:17:45]

Bruce Maxwell:

It makes Oakland look like a joke. It makes the city look like a joke, makes the whole organization as a whole be frowned upon. Because something as simple as that, wanting to stand for keeping the team in this very historical spot is subject to you losing your job.

It’s a pretty tough take, and I think it’s very immature. I think it’s very selfish. And that just goes to show how much John Fisher and our front office don’t care about the freedom of free thinking, and what our players actually really think and feel on that field.

Dave Zirin:

Wow. I got one more question for you, Bruce. But before I ask, is there anything else you’d like to say about the Oakland A’s? The move, your experience, anything else?

Bruce Maxwell:

I feel bad for the fans. I know I’m no longer in uniform, but I just want to say to them, I love all of you. I’ve had some of my best times and met some of my best friends in the seven years I was representing the Green and Gold.

I lost one of my dearest friends two years ago. She passed away. I met her in spring training; she used to talk to my mom, she used to talk to my father. And I’ve had some great meaningful experience and relationships come out of my time in Oakland. And I truly feel sorry for the city, because I know that this move has broken a lot of hearts. It’s broken a lot of spirits, when all people have ever done in that area has grow up and be A’s fans.

So from my heart to theirs, I love all of you. I feel for you. And everybody that’s ever put on that uniform is affected by this change.

Dave Zirin:

You know what? That’s where we need to end it. Bruce Maxwell, thank you so much for joining us here on Edge of Sports.

Bruce Maxwell:

Yeah. And always a pleasure talking to you.

Anncr.:

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