The NBA showed Thursday that it is united in its stance on social justice, as every player and coach on the four teams that played on the first night of the league’s restart took a knee during the national anthem.
Many locked arms, some shut their eyes, and a few, including LeBron James, raised a fist in the air or pointing skyward.
In the first game at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Kissimmee, Florida, the Utah Jazz and New Orleans Pelicans knelt alongside one another in front of the “Black Lives Matter” emblem on the court during “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) July 30, 2020
In the second game Thursday, James’ Los Angeles Lakers and the Los Angeles Clippers did the same thing during the anthem preceding their matchup.
— Spectrum SportsNet (@SpectrumSN) July 31, 2020
Commissioner Adam Silver announced that the NBA was suspending its rule that players must stand respectfully during the playing of the anthem.
“I respect our teams’ unified act of peaceful protest for social justice and under these unique circumstances will not enforce our long-standing rule requiring standing during the playing of our national anthem,” said Silver, who watched from a plexiglass-enclosed suite because he has not been quarantined and therefore cannot be around players and coaches who are living inside the NBA’s so-called bubble at Walt Disney World.
The coaches, first New Orleans’ Alvin Gentry and Utah’s Quin Snyder and then the Lakers’ Frank Vogel and the Clippers’ Doc Rivers, were next to one another, their arms locked together.
The scene were the first of what are expected to be many game-day statements by players and coaches who will kneel during the anthem to protest racial injustice and police brutality.
James said he took a knee with Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco quarterback who began kneeling during anthems in 2016 in mind. “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick said at the time.
“I hope we made Kap proud,” James said. “Hope we continue to make Kap proud.”
Even the game referees took a knee during the pregame scene.
— Michele Roberts (@MRobertsNBPA) July 31, 2020
“I think it’s critical that all of us, in a unified way, turn attention to social justice,” Snyder said during a televised in-game interview. “And all the players, all the coaches, are united in that fact and committed to do what we can do to effect long-term change.”
Many players warmed up wearing shirts that said “Black Lives Matter.” Thursday also marked the debut of new jerseys bearing messages that many players chose to have added, such as “Equality” and “Peace.”
Some of the squad’s messages to be worn on the back of their jerseys ⤵️ pic.twitter.com/ZCbdz7PGrE
— New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) July 30, 2020
The NBA season was suspended when Rudy Gobert — who also scored the first basket of the restarted season — of the Jazz tested positive for the coronavirus and became the first player in the league with such a diagnosis. Gobert was diagnosed on March 11.
The anthems in Thursday’s restart games were recorded: Jon Batiste performed the one before Pelicans-Jazz, the Compton Kidz Club had the task before Clippers-Lakers.
They lasted just under two minutes. Some players brought towels with them to cushion their knees.
NBA players have used their platforms — both in the bubble and on social media — to demand racial equality and justice for those fatally shot by police officers. The pregame actions Thursday were just the start of what is expected to be a constant during the remainder of this season.
The divisive anthem protests, however, turned off many fans.
THATS IT! Im done watching
— ???? ? (@envyrgn) July 30, 2020
See ya! I was really looking forward to following Zion’s career, but I WILL NOT support the NBA ever again in my life
— Marc McFadden (@marc_mcfadden) July 30, 2020
Done with the NBA awful Total lack of understanding for are Country and what the Flag stands for….
— Paul Bennett (@PaulBen67480220) July 31, 2020
Major mistake. You can do both. Support those that feel oppressed before the anthem – then rise to support our country & flag & all it represents. No basketball in our home – and will send a note to all sponsors.
— Clint Guth (@chelaxIndustry) July 30, 2020
Other teams who will play their first games of the restart on Friday and Saturday are planning similar gestures.
“We want our lives to be valued as much as everybody else,” Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum said in a video that aired before the games, part of a project organized by both the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association. “We don’t think that we’re better. We want to be seen as equals.”
Added Chris Paul, the Oklahoma City Thunder guard and president of the NBPA, speaking in the same video: “Things aren’t going to change until we sort of make them change.”
The Western Journal has reviewed this Associated Press story and may have altered it prior to publication to ensure that it meets our editorial standards.
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