NBA Commissioner Adam Silver appeared to be supportive of players and coaches taking a knee during the national anthem to protest against racial injustice and police brutality.
Silver released a statement to The New York Times moments after the New Orleans Pelicans and Utah Jazz players and coaches knelt during the anthem on Thursday. Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers followed suit in their game later that night.
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“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.
Silver said in an interview on “Good Morning America” on Wednesday he wasn’t sure what players were going to do when the league opened up again, but that he would respect it.
While NBA players in this generation have a history of speaking out on social justice issues, no player has taken a knee during the anthem. The NBA has a rule, which dates back to 1981, requiring players to stand for the anthem, according to NBC Sports.
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In 2017, ESPN reported the NBA sent a memo to teams reminding them “the league office will determine how to deal with any possible instance in which a player, coach or trainer does not stand for the anthem” and that teams “do not have the discretion to waive” and the league can only discipline players who violate the mandate.
“This could include a message of unity and how the team is committed to bringing the community together this season,” the memo reportedly said.
Silver also added at the time: “On the anthem specifically, we have a rule that requires our players to stand for the anthem. It’s been a rule as long as I’ve been involved with the league, and my expectation is that our players will continue to stand for the anthem.”
More than two years later, the social climate has certainly changed.
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The police-involved death of George Floyd appeared to change leagues’ stances on supporting social justice initiatives. So much so, the league allowed players to pick a pre-approved message to wear on the back of their jersey for the restarted season.