Five NBA players went to The Vatican to meet with Pope Francis for a one-hour meeting to discuss topics surrounding social justice issues.
The unique meet-up took place on Monday morning (Nov. 23), ESPN reports. Players in attendance included Orlando Magic’s Jonathan Isaac, Memphis Grizzlies Anthony Tolliver, and Sterling Brown, the former Milwaukee Bucks star who was the victim of police brutality in 2018 when he was tased by police at a local Walgreens. Isaac, 23, who is also an ordained minister, was one of the only players to stand during the national anthem during their season spent in the Bubble in Orlando.
According to ESPN, an assistant to Pope Francis reached out to the National Basketball Players Association last week mentioning that the spiritual leader of the Roman Catholic church wanted to learn more about how players were bringing attention to heightened social justice issues and economic inequality. Several officials from the NBPA were also in attendance at the papal library of the Apostolic Palace. The players had the opportunity to speak about their “individual and collective efforts addressing social and economic injustice and inequality occurring in their communities.”
"You're champions," Pope Francis said. "But also giving the example of teamwork, you've become a model, giving that good example of teamwork but always remaining humble ... and preserving your own humanity."
Putting a spotlight on racial injustice, police brutality, among other issues, the NBA and NBPA championed several social justice efforts during the restart of the 2019-2020 season in Orlando. Their organization's efforts included painting “Black Lives Matter” along one sideline of the court, kneeling during the national anthem before tip-off, and placing messages related to social justice on their jerseys including “Say Their Names,” “Equality,” and “Enough.”