Each NBA player who resumed the NBA season on Thursday kneeled while wearing “Black Lives Matter” shirts during the National Anthem.
Players with the New Orleans Pelicans and the Utah Jazz, joined by coaches and game officials, took a knee moments before tipoff on Thursday evening.
The Los Angeles Lakers and the Los Angeles Clippers have been following suit ahead of their Orlando game.
On some game jerseys, the names of players have been replaced with slogans like “Equality,” “I am a man,” “Ally,” and “Say her name,” sending a clear message in support of the movement for social justice.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said during the moment that he wouldn’t ask players to stand for the anthem.
“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.”
In a statement, the New Orleans Pelicans said the squad is standing by the principles of freedom of expression and the right to demonstrate peacefully.
“Collectively with the Utah Jazz, our organization joins the NBA in supporting our players and coaches. To promote meaningful change relative to social justice and racial equality, the New Orleans Pelicans have partnered with our players, staff, and coaches to create a Social Justice Leadership Alliance committed to furthering the discussion, listening and learning and taking action to make a positive change in our community and our country,” it said.
The Jazz said the organization is committed to promoting social justice, embracing players, coaches, and staff as they exercise their rights to First Amendment and using their voices, opinions, and platforms to express themselves peacefully.
Sports and Protests
The NBA is not the first League to rebuild their season of kneeling players in favor of the campaign.
The WNBA devoted the season to Breonna Taylor and the Say Her Name initiative, as the League opened its season last week. Many MLB stars even took a knee outside of baseball, when their season resumed earlier this month.
Both these protests come in the wake of violence in the US over the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd, representing that of Colin Kaepernick during the NFL season 2016-17.
The deaths have sparked widespread outrage around the world, and have resulted in, among other requests, calls for racial equality, social justice, and police reform in the US.
The “Covid Factor”
After a 20-week break, in Orlando, Florida, the NBA returned to a so-called bubble.
The League took steps against coronavirus on Thursday following the pandemic. The table of the scorer was, for example, wrapped in Plexiglas.
Unit benches were also split into three sections: players, coaches, and team members. They consisted of a series of seating rows with sufficient spacing for each seat.
Players and coaches might still be huddled at a timeout or phase break, but had to sit or stand in shifting chairs away from squad benches. After through use, the chairs were washed and decontaminated during times or breaks.
The Los Angeles Lakers and the LA Clippers started on Thursday, much as Utah Jazz and the Pelicans of New Orleans had earlier in the week.
By the close of LeBron James had been clutch. Next, he tallied what the shot that won was by taking his missing attempt and bringing it in an offensive rebound. He defended the two stars, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, at the other end of the floor to prevent the Clippers a branding. Lakers, 103-101, managed to advance.
The League shut down on March 11, shortly before the Utah Jazz in Oklahoma City, when it became announced that Rudy Gobert Jazz Center tested Covid-19 positive.
As the action came to a close on Thursday night, it fitted that Gobert scored the first basket in style and hit what the free throws would be like, in Utah’s 106-104 victory over the Pelicans.
“Life works in mysterious ways,” Gobert said. “I’m just happy, blessed to be able to be back on the court, to do what I love to do, to be back out there with my teammates and try to win a game.”