The NBA season’s restart was marked with a symbol of solidarity for demonstrators around the country protesting against racial injustice: players kneeling.
Prior to tipoff, Thursday night (July 30), players with the New Orleans Pelicans and Utah Jazz, took a knee along with coaches and game officials as the national anthem played. Each of them were wearing Black Lives Matter shirts.
The Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers made the same gesture prior to their game.
Jerseys for both teams were also printed with messages related to the BLM cause including “Say Her Name” and “Equality.”
Lakers superstar forward LeBron James also spoke about taking a knee prior to his game Thursday night.
“I’ve been one to always speak out about things that I feel like is unjust. If I’m educated on things, I always go about it that way,” he told reporters after the game.
Teams have not played since the 2019-2020 season was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic in March. Since that time, the nation has exploded in social justice protest over police violence against Blacks, spurring professional athletes to become more vocal.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver said that he would not force any players to stand during 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," said Silver, according to CNN.
The Pelicans released a statement saying they support its 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 positive change in our community and our country," the team’s statement said.
In addition, the Jazz released a statement of their own noting that they are “committed to advancing social justice and stand in support of the players, coaches and staff as they exercise their First Amendment rights, and use their voices, their experiences, and their platforms to peacefully express themselves."
Last weekend, WNBA players from the New York Liberty and Settle Storm walked off the court during the playing of the national anthem. Both teams then held a 26-second moment of silence for Breonna Taylor, who was killed by Louisville police in her own home during a botched drug raid. Each player also had Taylor’s name on the backs of their jerseys.