NBA players knelt during the national anthem on Thursday night as the professional basketball season resumed following a four-month hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Before the Utah Jazz and New Orleans Pelicans game, every player, coach, and staff member locked arms before kneeling in concert for the playing of the Star Spangled Banner.
The same thing happened prior to the Los Angeles Lakers-Los Angeles Clippers game later in the night.
The players knelt on a court emblazoned with “Black Lives Matter,” referring to the movement against what backers describe as racial injustice.
Black Lives Matter has come under fire from some for promoting a variety of radical views. The global network says it wants to “disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family” and “foster a queer-affirming network.” One of its co-founders has described top level organizers as having been trained in the far-left ideology of Marxism.
The NBA is also allowing players to replace the typical last names on jerseys with slogans including “AntiRacist,” “Justice Now,” and “Vote.”
The league and its players association agreed to use the league’s platform “to promote racial equality in our country,” Mark Tatum, an NBA official, told Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) in a letter this week.
NBA teams playing on night one of the season restart issued statements after their personnel knelt during the anthem.
A statement in support of our players, coaches and staff 💙 pic.twitter.com/e2YN1gUhVT
— utahjazz (@utahjazz) July 30, 2020
“The New Orleans Pelicans stand by the ideals of freedom of speech and the right to peacefully protest,” the team said, while the Jazz said the team is “committed to advancing social justice and stand in support of the players, coaches and staff as they exercise their First Amendment rights, use their voices, their experiences, and their platforms to peacefully express themselves.”
The Lakers released a statement from star LeBron James, who told reporters last week: “A lot of people talk about Black Lives Matter being a movement. When you’re black, it’s not a movement. It is a lifestyle.”
Clippers coach Doc Rivers told reporters after the game that his knee started hurting as he knelt.
“Yet there was a guy who had his knee on someone’s neck for eight minutes. Think about that,” Rivers said.
He was referring to then-police officer Derek Chauvin, who knelt on the neck of George Floyd, a Minneapolis man, for nearly seven minutes on Memorial Day. Floyd died in policy custody. Chauvin was fired and charged with murder.
In a statement to news outlets, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said he respects players deciding to kneel and won’t enforce the league’s “long-standing rule requiring standing during the playing of our national anthem.”
“Tonight we witnessed sober, powerfully moving and heartfelt demonstrations by our players of their commitment to the pursuit of justice. Very proud,” Michele Roberts, executive director of the player’s association, said in a social media statement.
Kneeling during the anthem is a divisive tactic as a large number of Americans view it as disrespectful to the country and members of the military.
The National Football League (NFL) saw a decline in ratings several years ago when quarterback Colin Kaepernick started the trend.
“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 told NFL Media at the time.
Some 72 percent of Americans polled by Reuters in 2016 said kneeling during the anthem was unpatriotic. In a YouGov/CBS poll released this week, 58 percent of respondents said it was acceptable to kneel during the anthem.
Players across sports leagues have in recent months knelt during the anthem, including some professional baseball players.
The Dallas Stars and Nashville Predators, two hockey teams, linked arms during the anthem earlier Thursday but did not kneel.