Akin to how the MLB opened its own pandemic-derailed season — but even more so — the teams that restarted the NBA season on Thursday night donned Black Lives Matters shirts and took a knee ahead of their tip-offs.
Ahead of the basketball league’s re-opening game on TNT, players on the New Orleans Pelicans and Utah Jazz kneeled, and some raised fists, as a pre-recorded national anthem, by New Orleans native Jon Batiste, played. Later in the night, the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers did same, as a rendition of the national anthem by the Compton Kidz Club played on jumbo screens (watch video below).
Though kneeling during the anthem is against league rules, the right to do so was a negotiating point as the NBA planned to resume its season, which was benched by the coronavirus pandemic in early spring.
“A central goal of our season restart will be to utilize the NBA’s platform to bring attention and sustained action to issues of social injustice, including combatting systemic racism, expanding educational and economic opportunities across the Black community, enacting meaningful police and criminal justice reform and promoting greater civic engagement,” the NBA said in a June statement.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver similarly addressed Thursday night’s pre-game demonstrations, saying, “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.”
The New Orleans Pelicans earlier on Thursday issued a statement saying they “stand by the ideals of freedom of speech and the right to peacefully protest. …. 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.”