The NBA begins exhibition play Saturday, at which point we will start to find out how many of its players will stage Colin Kaepernick-style protests during the national anthem. Two of the league’s biggest stars, LeBron James and Steph Curry, said Monday that they will stand while the song is played during pregame ceremonies.
However, both players said they “respect” what Kaepernick is doing, with James adding that he fears for the time when his 12-year-old son begins driving around on his own and could be pulled over by police. Several football players and other athletes have begun emulating the 49ers quarterback by sitting or kneeling during the anthem, as he has been doing since August, or by raising their fists during it, and it is widely expected that many in the NBA will follow suit in some fashion.
Unlike the NFL, the NBA has a rule mandating that all of its players stand during the anthem, but so does the WNBA, and thus far that league has taken no action against its players who have knelt during the anthem, including the entire Indiana Fever team before a playoff game last week. In anticipation of protests, the NBA and its players union have begun working together on ways players can take “meaningful action” to express concern over injustice in this country (per ESPN).
“I think you guys know when I’m passionate about something I’ll speak up on it, so me standing for the national anthem is something I will do, that’s who I am, that’s what I believe in,” James told reporters at the Cavaliers’ media day (via cleveland.com). “But that doesn’t mean I don’t respect and don’t agree with what Colin Kaepernick is doing. You have the right to voice your opinion, stand for your opinion, and he’s doing it in the most peaceful way I’ve ever seen someone do something.”
“I plan on standing,” Curry said during the Warriors’ media day (via CSN Bay Area). “But like I’ve said, there are ways that everybody can affect the mindset of people around them and the awareness of what’s going on without, in that moment, with the national anthem playing, kneeling. I’ve always said I respect Colin because he took a bold step, in that regard, to continue the conversation and make it more pointed. But I do plan on standing.”
In July, James stood onstage at the ESPY awards with three other NBA stars — Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Paul — as they issued a “call to action” to fellow athletes to help effect positive change. On Monday, the Cavaliers forward said it was “a good thing” that “the conversation has continued from the ESPY speech.”
In light of two recent incidents in which police officers shot to death black men, James said, “You see these videos that continue to come out, it’s a scary-a– situation that if my son calls me and said if he got pulled over, that I’m not that confident that things are gonna go well and my son is going to return home. My son just started the sixth grade.”
“I’m not here to ramp on America, that’s not me,” James added (via the Associated Press). “I’m not a politician, but I’ve lived this life and I’ve got a family, and what scares me is my kids growing up in this society right now, where innocent lives are being taken and it seems like nothing is being done.”
“I’m not up here saying all police are bad, because they’re not. I’m not up here saying that all kids are great and all adults are great, because they’re not,” James said. “But at the same time, all lives do matter. It’s not black or white, it’s not that. It’s everyone, so, it’s just tough being a parent right now when you have a preteen.”
According to TNT’s David Aldridge, Anthony said Monday that he has had exchanges with Kaepernick through email and “supports him.” The Knicks forward, who has displayed a strong interest in civic activism in recent years, also wants to take “the next step” to help communities.
“With the whole Black Lives Matter stuff, it’s a major thing for me,” Pistons forward Marcus Morris said Monday (via the Detroit Free Press). “Colin’s going to do what he’s going to do, and I can agree or disagree, but for me, personally, I live in this world. I live in the U.S. I can’t take a knee on that. Things are not going right. I don’t think taking a knee is going to make it better because it’s something that’s just happening. It just brings attention.
“I stand up for Colin doing that. It took a lot of [guts] to do that. He obviously truly believes in what he’s doing. Right or wrong, he’s standing for what he believes in and I agree with that.”
Warriors Coach Steve Kerr told reporters last week that he plans on supporting any of his players who want to stage protests. “As long as the message is clear, I’m all for people speaking out against injustice,” Kerr said. “Whatever form that takes, if it’s non-violent and it leads to conversation, then I think that’s a good thing.”
“Am I going to kneel down and put my fist up?” Warriors forward Draymond Green asked Monday (via CBS Sports). “No. I’m not. That’s no disrespect to Colin or anybody else that’s doing it. But the point is out. Like, they’ve gotten the point across. I don’t think I need to come out and do this national anthem protest because it’s already been started. It’s already a conversation.
“But like I said, the question is, is there going to be something done about it?” Green continued. “Like, you can continue to kneel and do all these things, but if nobody is really trying to make the change, I think the number one problem is the people who see a problem with what he’s doing. Because that means you’re trying to focus on what he’s doing and not focus on what he’s talking about. And that’s the problem that we have as a whole anyway.”
Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich said Monday that he respects the “courage” of players who have protested during renditions of the anthem. “I think the important thing that Kaepernick and others have done is to keep [the issue] in the conversation,” Popovich said (via mysanantonio.com).
Asked what he would say to his own team, Popovich told the media Monday, “My players are engaged citizens who are fully capable of understanding what their values are, and what they think is appropriate and inappropriate, and what they feel strongly about. Whatever actions may or may not be taken are their decisions, and I’m not going to tell anyone ahead of time that if they don’t do A, B and C, they’re going to be gone or traded. I think that’s ignorant.”