DeShields, who was with the Texas Rangers at the time, received a call from Maxwell saying he was going to become the first MLB player to protest during the anthem as part of a movement started by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, and he asked DeShields if he wanted to join.
"I felt like a sellout," he told ESPN's Joon Lee. "I always felt like I should've been out there with him, and now he's not even in the league no more. He's out in Mexico playing. It just sucks that happened to him."
DeShields explained he feared being pushed out of the league if he took part in the protest.
"I didn't want to be castrated out the league for something that I believe in while trying to inspire the youth," he said. "I just didn't want to contribute to that, especially when I'm trying to inspire young African American kids that you can play in the big leagues and look like me if that's something you want to do."
It was a legitimate concern. Kaepernick wasn't signed by an NFL team after becoming a free agent in 2017, less than a year after kneeling during the anthem to protest police brutality and racial injustice, and Maxwell joined the Acereros de Monclova in Mexico after becoming a free agent after the 2018 season.
Their efforts are being viewed in a renewed spotlight after George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, was killed while in Minneapolis Police custody May 25.
The movement to change racial injustice and police brutality has garnered worldwide support.
DeShields told Lee the ongoing situation has led him to speak out:
"Black people just tired, and we've been tired for a long time. I think the whole situation with Bruce, it put this weight on me and seeing Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd lose their life, this is why Kaepernick took a knee. This is the reason. I didn't want my voice to not be heard. I don't want to stay quiet no more. It's time for all of us to step up and stand for what we believe in, stand up for what we know is right."
DeShields didn't say whether he'd take a knee during the anthem if the 2020 MLB season eventually gets underway amid the coronavirus pandemic, but he wants to "help the sport grow" through conversations about the challenges black players face.