A group of NBA players are apparently prepared to make a powerful, unified statement when play officially resumes inside the bubble next week.
Eight teams staying in the same hotel at Walt Disney World reportedly met this week and are planning to take a knee during the national anthem on their respective opening nights, according to Brad Turner of the Los Angeles Times.
According to Turner, the Milwaukee Bucks, Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers, Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics, Denver Nuggets, Utah Jazz and Miami Heat were all part of the group meeting this week.
Sources: NBA players plan to kneel during National Athem on opening nights of season, starting Thurs. Bucks, Lakers, Clippers, Raptors, Celtics, Nuggets, Jazz, Heat staying at same hotel had a meeting. “One of the 1st oncourt actions will be kneeling opening night,” player said.
— Brad Turner (@BA_Turner) July 24, 2020
Three of those teams — the Lakers, Clippers and Jazz — will compete on Thursday in the first two games of the season restart. The New Orleans Pelicans, the fourth team to play on opening night, wasn’t involved in the meeting. It’s unclear if the rest of the league will follow suit.
The decision to kneel in protest isn’t a surprising one. Not only has this been a growing trend in the sports world — both MLS and NWSL teams have done this repeatedly this month, players across Major League Baseball started doing it this week, and dozens of NFL players have already committed to doing it during their season this fall — but players inside the bubble have been increasingly vocal about social justice issues.
Lakers star LeBron James joined several of his NBA counterparts on Thursday in speaking out about Breonna Taylor’s death. A majority of players are expected to wear social justice statements on their jerseys in place of their last name, and the NBA even painted “Black Lives Matter” on the courts that will be used in Florida.
Kneeling during the national anthem still prohibited
Players are still technically required by rule to stand during the playing of the national anthem. NBA commissioner Adam Silver was asked about the potential for protests during the anthem last month.
While he sounded supportive of the movement, he didn’t specify whether the league would enforce the longstanding rule.
"I am not comfortable with the word 'allow,'" Silver said during a TIME 100 Talks in June, via ESPN. "I think we have had a rule on our books that goes back to the early '80s that precedes even David Stern's tenure as commissioner that calls for players to stand in a line and attention during the national anthem. I also understand the role of protest, and I think that we'll deal with that situation when it presents itself."
Players do have the support of at least one owner, however.
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who said in 2017 at the beginning of these protests in the sports world that he’d stand with his hand over his heart, changed his tone last month.
“If [Mavericks players] were taking a knee and being respectful, I’d be proud of them,” Cuban said in June. “Hopefully, I’d join them.”
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