The memo, which was obtained by The Washington Post, was sent by NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum to the league’s owners, team presidents and general managers, and comes on the heels of the league’s Board of Governors meetings this week. During the meetings, sources said there were lengthy discussions about the current climate in sports in the wake of President Donald Trump’s remarks that NFL players who protest during the national anthem are sons of bitches who should be “fired”, as well as his tweet that disinvited Stephen Curry – and, by extension, the Golden State Warriors – from the White House.
It was sent to try to give teams a blueprint for how to approach the issue, stressing that team owners and executives meet with their players to get a clear understanding of their players’ perspectives on the matter. There also were several proposals for initiatives teams could create between now and the start of the season, as well as things teams could do before or during their opening home game of the season.
But the memo also reiterated what NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said Thursday in New York during his news conference at the end of the league’s meetings this week: that there is a league rule stating that players, coaches and trainers must stand for the national anthem, and that he expects that rule to be followed when the season starts Oct. 17.
“We have a rule that requires our players to stand for the anthem,” Silver said Thursday. “It’s been our rule for as long as I’ve been involved with the league, and my expectation is that our players will continue to stand for the anthem.”
That rule has been in place for decades, and was originally intended to ensure players weren’t shooting or stretching while the anthem was being played before a game. But in the current climate, it comes under greater scrutiny.
In addition to reminding teams about the rule, the memo also stated that teams don’t have discretion to waive the rule, and that 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.”
The league acknowledged the sensitivity of the memo, saying, “These are difficult and nuanced issues.” And the memo comes in the wake of a similar message sent by Silver and Michele Roberts, the executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, to the league’s players three weeks ago.
In that letter, Silver and Roberts told the players, “None of us operates in a vacuum. Critical issues that affect our society also impact you directly. Fortunately, you are not only the world’s greatest basketball players — you have real power to make a difference in the world, and we want you know that the Players Association and the League are always available to help you figure out the most meaningful way to make that difference.”
That memo, however, came before Trump’s comments about both Curry and NFL players, both of which have understandably inflamed the issue.
Now the question is whether any players or coaches will choose not to stand for the anthem. No one protested during the anthem last year after Colin Kaepernick began kneeling to protest police brutality and racial inequality. Dozens of players did so before Sunday’s NFL games in the wake of Trump’s comments.
The Warriors said Friday that they have no plans to do anything at the opening game of the preseason in Oakland Saturday against the Denver Nuggets.
“I haven’t been made aware of it. If there were to be something, I would’ve heard,” Warriors Coach Steve Kerr told reporters after practice on Friday. “That’s what we talk about as a group. We never do anything without the whole team discussing it. At this point, there’s no plans.”
Here is the memo the league sent to the 30 NBA teams:
TO: NBA BOARD OF GOVERNORS, TEAM PRESIDENTS, GENERAL MANAGERS
FROM: MARK TATUM, DEPUTY COMMISSIONER & CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER
RE: NEXT STEPS: BUILDING STRONGER, SAFER COMMUNITIES
As a follow-up to our discussions at this week’s Board of Governors meetings, this document outlines suggested steps each team could take as we prepare for the start of the season and continue to develop impactful community programs.
I. ENGAGING PLAYERS AND SENIOR LEADERSHIP
If you have not done so already, we suggest organizing discussions between players, coaches, general managers and ownership to hear the players’ perspectives.
One approach would be for team leadership to review existing team and league initiatives and encourage players to share their thoughts and ideas about them. Following those conversations, teams could develop plans prior to the start of the regular season for initiatives that players and senior leadership could participate in, such as:
· Hosting Community Conversations with youth, parents, community leaders and law enforcement about the challenges we face and our shared responsibility to create positive change.
· Creating “Building Bridges Through Basketball” programs that use the game of basketball to bring people together and deepen important bonds of trust and respect between young people, mentors, community leaders, law enforcement and other first responders.
· Highlighting the importance of mentoring with the goal of adding 50,000 new mentors to support young people through our PSA campaign.
· Engaging thought leaders and partners. A variety of experts, speakers and partner organizations are available to players and teams as you continue these conversations and develop programming.
· Establishing new and/or enhancing ongoing team initiatives and partnerships in the areas of criminal justice reform, economic empowerment and civic engagement.
As we approach opening week, each team could explore ways to use their first home game as an opportunity to demonstrate your commitment to the NBA’s core values of equality, diversity, inclusion and serve as a unifying force in the community, including:
· A joint address to fans featuring a player or coach prior to the National Anthem. This could include a message of unity and how the team is committed to bringing the community together this season.
· A video tribute or PSA featuring players, community leaders, faith leaders and team leadership speaking about the issues they care about and photos from past community events.
· These are difficult and nuanced issues.
· We support and encourage players to express their views on matters that are important to them.
· The NBA has a rule that players, coaches and trainers stand respectfully for the anthem. 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. (Teams do not have the discretion to waive this rule).
· Our team’s focus remains on unity and collective action that leads to meaningful change in society. The players have embraced their roles in those efforts and we are proud of the work they do in our communities.
· We believe sports are a unifier and this is an opportunity for the NBA to once again lead by its core values of equality, inclusion and unity and to bridge divides and bring people together.