Coronavirus put a halt on sports for months, but the reopening of the NBA took on a political stance. While the national anthem played, players, coaches, and referees took a knee in a coordinated effort. The teams involved include the Utah Jazz and New Orleans Pelicans, later followed by the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers. This comes after months of protests in honor of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement.
Within the NBA there stands an internal law against kneeling during the national anthem––in place since the 1980s–– however the NBA Commissioner Adam Silver maintained that there would not be any punishment for players that choose to kneel due to the “highly unusual times”. Silver continued in a statement to say “I respect our teams’ unified act of peaceful protest for social justice,” Silver said in a statement, “and under these unique circumstances will not enforce our long-standing rule requiring standing during the playing of our national anthem.”
The rise in social justice movements in the form of sports comes after Colin Kaepernick, former 49ers quarterback, began the trend back in 2016. However, there appears to be a major tonal shift in the reception of these acts of political dissidence. In 2016, Kaepernick found himself in an intense feud with President Donald Trump, however, many have looked to the solidarity present in the NBA’s actions. The goal espoused by the NBA players is one of “collective action to combat systemic racism and promote social justice.”
Off the court, basketball players have continued their outcry for racial justice. Some have even taken game related questions to demand justice for Breonna Taylor, a black woman who was mistakenly shot in her own home by police in March. The calls for justice are loud and NBA players have commented that their “fight will not stop.”
The events that have occurred on the basketball court parallel the sentiment across America. Many people are becoming increasingly aware of the systemic and systematic racism present within our great nation and are demanding substantive changes. This all comes as the pandemic continues to rage, which has also shown that it disproportionately affects black, indigenous, people of color communities.
Commentators with a more conservative approach find these times troubling and believe that many of the aforementioned actions are distinctly anti-American and unpatriotic. President Trump has yet to comment on the events of Thursday night, but it seems likely that he does not support the players actions.