The NBA is finally returning on Thursday, and while that’s a welcome relief for many sports fans, there’s uncertainty about what players will do during the national anthem — and how the NBA will react to that.
Commissioner Adam Silver spoke to Robin Roberts about the restart on Wednesday’s “Good Morning America,” and briefly touched on the possibility of players protesting, which could include kneeling or walking off the court (as some WNBA players have done). Silver mentioned his personal stance on protesting, but didn’t say much more than that.
Silver: I respect peaceful protest
Here’s Silver’s exchange with Roberts regarding possible NBA anthem protests:
Roberts: What is the NBA’s stance on [players walking off the court before the national anthem] and on kneeling during the anthem?
Silver: The NBA has had a rule on its books that preceded David Stern, which was standing for the national anthem. Having said that, I respect peaceful protest. I'm not sure what our players will do when they come out tomorrow night, and we'll of course address it at the time, but I also understand these are highly unusual times.
The rule Silver mentioned has been on the books since 1981, and essentially forbids kneeling protests by requiring players, trainers, and coaches to line up “in a dignified posture” for the anthem.
While ESPN has reported that the NBA isn’t expected to enforce that rule, Silver wouldn’t commit to that during the interview. Instead, he said that he and NBA leadership would “address” protests as they happen. There have been no protests so far as the NBA hasn’t played the anthem before any of the recent scrimmage games.
Silver might be responding to a protest fairly soon. ESPN’s Malika Andrews reported on Tuesday night that the New Orleans Pelicans and Utah Jazz are planning a unified protest on Thursday for their NBA bubble opener, which is the very first game of the NBA restart.
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