Maxwell became in 2017 the first Major League Baseball player to kneel during the national anthem in protest of police brutality and racial injustice.
His agent, Dave Stewart, approached Oakland manager Bob Melvin about signing his client before the shutdown, according to ESPN's Howard Bryant. Melvin then spoke with president Billy Beane and general manager David Forst, who agreed to bring Maxwell back.
However, Maxwell said he ultimately turned down the offer because he felt the team was signing him only as a favor to Stewart, a former Athletics star.
"I didn't feel there was a real want for me," Maxwell said, according to Bryant. "I told Dave, 'I don't want a job because you're my agent.' I didn't want to be a charity case. I think Dave thinks I made a mistake, and I respect that, but here's the real: I still had a lot of pent-up feelings about being there, and as I told Dave, I didn't want to mess up his reputation if I walked in there and couldn't make it work.
"I just kept asking myself if I wanted to be subjected to all that again, walking in there, with everyone wondering what my face meant and if they were going to judge me because I wasn't as cheerful as they wanted me to be, or they were just waiting to call me a failure if I didn't play well. I didn't need it. They did a favor for Dave."
Stewart said he approached the franchise because of its familiarity with Maxwell and it was in need of catching help. He also said that multiple teams, including the Pittsburgh Pirates, shied away from signing his client over the winter in part due to his 2018 arrest and negative reviews from scouts while in Triple-A.
"Bruce couldn't get past his ego. That's why he's not in the major leagues," Stewart said. "I told him, 'You have to humble yourself sometime.' He wasn't willing to do that. I had to go back to the A's and tell them we weren't going to be able to work something out."
Beane said the Athletics' interest had nothing to do with their relationship with Stewart.
"Bruce worked hard to be a major league-level player," Beane said. "He is a major-league player, and Stew's right: We don't just hand out major-league jobs."
Maxwell remains the only MLB player to take a knee during the anthem. He was arrested that winter after allegedly pulling a gun on a food delivery person, though the charges were later reduced to a misdemeanor.
The 29-year-old signed with Acereros de Monclova of the Mexican League in 2019. He helped them win a league title by posting a .966 OPS with 24 homers and re-signed with the club before the pandemic.
"The last three years of my life have been hell. I lost my money, my job, my wife, and I've finally gotten to a place where I could figure myself out," Maxwell said. "When I came down here, all eyes were on me, without backlash. Honestly, I've never been happier. I busted my ass to become myself. I like myself now, and this opportunity here, nobody gave it to me. I earned it. I finally feel like I belong somewhere, and I cannot put that aside right now.
"My happiness makes me money, 'cause when I'm happy, nobody can touch me. People love me unconditionally down here, unlike in the States."