A bubble season focused on social justice and the Black Lives Matter movement opened with a unified statement from players and referees prior to the tip of Thursday’s game between the New Orleans Pelicans and Utah Jazz.
As a pre-recorded rendition of the national anthem by Jon Batiste played, every player and official on the court took a knee, with some players holding raised fists in the air.
Utah Jazz, New Orleans Pelicans and referees kneel during the anthem as a peaceful protest method to highlight racial injustice. pic.twitter.com/Cnt3n1oXJN
Kneeling during the anthem is technically against NBA rules, but players and officials made their plans to do so clear prior to Thursday’s game.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver addressed the subject in a Time 100 talk in June when asked if the league would allow players to take a knee.
“I am not comfortable with the word ‘allow,’” Silver said. “I think we have had a rule on our books that goes back to the early ’80s that precedes even David Stern’s tenure as commissioner that calls for players to stand in a line and attention during the national anthem. I also understand the role of protest, and I think that we’ll deal with that situation when it presents itself.”
As part of the restart negotiations, players voiced their desire to make social justice a centerpiece of the bubble league in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police. All three courts in the bubble are emblazoned with “Black Lives Matter” and players have the option to wear a social justice message on their uniforms.
“The New Orleans Pelicans stand by the ideals of freedom of speech and the right to peacefully protest,” the statement reads. “Collectively with the Utah Jazz, our organization joins the NBA in supporting our 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.”
Thursday’s moment arrived shortly after rapper Meek Mill opened TNT’s broadcast with a social justice message.
[email protected] delivers a powerful message for The Return. 🔥The NBA restart tips off at 5pm ET on TNT. pic.twitter.com/qiuSVyhYrc
New Orleans Pelicans, Utah Jazz, Zion Williamson, NBA
World news – CA – NBA players, referees all kneel as national anthem plays before Jazz-Pelicans bubble tip-off