Pelicans and Jazz players, coaches all kneel during national anthem
Moments before the Pelicans and Jazz kicked off the NBA’s return to action, every player, coach and referee on the court kneeled during the national anthem to protest police brutality and racial injustice.
They joined together in a powerful image, locking together in arms on a court with the words “Black Lives Matter” largely displayed. Players were wearing warm-up shirts displaying the same message.
Various team and league employees behind the court did not kneel.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver supported both teams for kneeling.
“I respect our teams’ unified act of peaceful protest for social justice and under these unique circumstances will not enforce our long-standing rule requiring standing during the playing of our national anthem,” Silver said.
When they worked on a plan to resume the season, players made it a point that they did not want to distract from the social justice movements across the country following the police killing of George Floyd.
Since they arrived in the bubble in Orlando, numerous players around the league have been outspoken about the issue. Specifically, players, including LeBron James, Tobias Harris, Paul George and Jaylen Brown, have focused their media sessions on calling for justice for Breonna Taylor.
Taylor was killed by police in her Louisville home on March 13 after plainclothes officers executed a “no-knock” warrant. One officer has been fired, while the two other officers have been placed on administrative leave.
When they arrived in the bubble, Taylor’s mom held a virtual meeting with nearly 40 players, according to ESPN. She is an honorary member of all 22 teams participating in the bubble, according to NBC Sports.
As part of the league’s social justice initiative, players are allowed to replace their names on their jerseys with approved social justice messages.
“What’s going on in our country, I think it’s critical all of us, in a unified way, turn our attention to social justice,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said after the first quarter.