The New Orleans Pelicans an Utah Jazz will reportedly kneel in protest of racism during the national anthem when the league restarts its pandemic-interrupted season on Thursday; and despite a longstanding rule against the practice, NBA commissioner Adam Silver appears open to the idea.
‘I respect peaceful protest,’ Silver told ABC’s Good Morning America on Wednesday. ‘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.’
Protests have erupted across the country since the death of George Floyd, who was killed in Minneapolis police custody during a violent arrest on May 25. The protests against racial injustice have grown increasingly popular among athletes, many of whom have refused to stand for the national anthem.
ESPN’s Malika Andrews cited sources Tuesday night saying that the Jazz and Pelicans players are working together on a plan to kneel during The Star-Spangled Banner and show support for the Black Lives Matter movement before the first game on Thursday. Coaches are expected to join the players, the report stated.
[email protected] Commissioner Adam Silver speaks one-on-one with @RobinRoberts about COVID-19 precautions and social justice as the season is set to restart. https://t.co/ygRckkJIyR pic.twitter.com/ZLEdM9iy5Y
Rule H-2 of the NBA Rulebook states ‘players, coaches and trainers must stand and line up in a dignified posture along the foul lines during the playing of the American and/or Canadian national anthems.’
The NBA will not enforce the rule, adopted in 1981, in the bubble, according to the report.
Silver hasn’t always been open to player protests.
He actually reminded teams of the anthem policy in a 2017 memo, according to an ESPN report. At the time, NFL players were routinely kneeling during the national anthem to protest racism and police brutality.
Now, amid the nationwide protests, the NBA’s attitude about player protests appear to be evolving.
With the league set to return after nearly five months off, fans will notice ‘Black Lives Matter’ on the courts and scoreboards inside the NBA’s bubble at Disney World in Orlando. Players will also have social justice messages printed on the backs of their jerseys.
Many NBA players said before entering the bubble that they did not want their season to detract from their support for racial justice.
In Bradenton, Florida, where the WNBA recently began its coronavirus-delayed season, Seattle Storm and New York Liberty players actually walked off the court during the anthem without any reprisal from the league office.