Looks like NBA players and staff won’t be joining the throngs of NFL members to take a knee against police brutality or President Donald Trump.
On Friday, NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum sent out a memo to teams reinforcing its policy that players, coaches, and trainers must stand for the national anthem. The memo, obtained and reported by ESPN, stated that individual teams do not have the “discretion to waive” the rule, and that the league office will determine how to address individuals who violate the policy.
In lieu of protesting, the memo suggested other ways NBA teams and players could address the recent protests exhibited by the NFL, which began as a stand against racism and police brutality by former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick but was further ignited by the comments from President Trump attacking protesting athletes.
Tatum says teams could have players and coaches give a joint pregame address at opening season home games, or prepare a video tribute or public service announcement with “team leadership speaking about the issues they care about.”
“This could include a message of unity and how the team is committed to bringing the community together this season,” the memo states.
The memo reflects criticism and a call to action that commissioner Adam Silver had shared a day prior after the league’s board of governors meeting, saying that he finds the disunity in society disheartening, and that he expects NBA players to continue to stand for the anthem.
“It’s my hope that our players will continue to use that as a moment of unity,” Silver said, ESPN reported. “…Many of our players have spoken out already about their plan to stand for the anthem. And I think they understand how divisive an issue it is in our society right now.”
Despite the memo’s call for inaction during the national anthem, ESPN reports that Silver and Michele Roberts, executive director of the players union, have always told players to address issues that matter to them. The memo does the same, suggesting teams “continue to develop impactful community programs” and use the sport and their impact to “build bridges” between communities of fans.
Several players and coaches have already begun making comments against the disunity that Silver spoke about. On Monday, members spent much of their time during NBA’s media day denouncing President Trump’s comments. LeBron James said he won’t allow Trump to divide the U.S. through sports, while Wizards’ Bradley Beal called Trump a clown who didn’t understand the meaning of the NFL’s protests against police brutality.
San Antonio Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich, who a year prior said he respected athletes who protest the national anthem, used his media day time to slam Trump, calling the U.S. “an embarrassment to the world.”
Popovich, who is white, doubled down on Trump and said “the childishness, the gratuitous fear mongering and race baiting” from the president initiated this division. He went on to say that white people “still have no clue what being born white means” and that until people get past the discomfort and address how systemically advantaged white people are, racism cannot be addressed.
“It’s hard to sit down and decide that, yes, it’s like you’re at the 50-meter mark in a 100 meter dash, you’ve got that kind of lead,” Popovich said. “…Many people can’t look at it. It’s too difficult, it can’t be something that is on their plate on a daily basis. People want to hold their position, people want the status quo, people don’t want to give that up. And until it’s given up, it’s not gonna be fixed.”