Jazz, Pelicans take knee in unity during national anthem

As the sound of New Orleans musician Jon Batiste playing the “Star-Spangled Banner” on the piano filled the arena, the New Orleans Pelicans and Utah Jazz knelt along the sideline behind the words “Black Lives Matter” printed on the court.

Players wore shirts with the same message. Coaches, team staff and the referees joined them as well. They put their arms around each other’s shoulders through the length of the song.

It was a movement led by NBA players who entered the league’s restart wanting to find ways to speak about and discuss messages of social justice and racism. The Jazz and Pelicans were the first team to play in a nationally televised doubleheader. The Lakers and Clippers are expected to act similarly this evening before their game tips off at 6 p.m. PDT.

“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,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement.

Silver’s statement marks a shift in policy for the NBA, whose rules state that players must stand for the national anthem. The policy predates Silver — in 1996 Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf was suspended because he did not stand for the national anthem — but has been enforced by Silver once he became the league’s commissioner. After NFL players, starting with former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, started to kneel during the national anthem, Silver said NBA players were expected to stand.

The @utahjazz and @PelicansNBA kneel in solidarity as @JonBatiste performs the National Anthem prior to the NBA Restart. pic.twitter.com/dQeHSbUx87

A montage played on a video screen before the anthem, and during it players and coaches for the Pelicans and Jazz stood shoulder to shoulder. In it, players and coaches discussed issues of social justice.

“We don’t think that we’re better,” Celtics forward Jayson Tatum said. “We want to be seen as equals. To this point we haven’t.”

“Things aren’t gonna change until we sort of make them change,” Thunder guard Chris Paul said.

“And we will,” Nuggets guard Jamal Murray said. Teammate Donovan Mitchell immediately followed with “make change.”

Their words were interspersed with images from the protests this summer. The protests began after a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on the neck of a Black man named George Floyd, killing him. Several NBA players participated in the protests, and their images were shown during the montage.

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Source: https://www.latimes.com/sports/story/2020-07-30/jazz-pelicans-take-knee-during-national-anthem-in-unity

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