NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum sent out a memo to all 30 teams Friday instructing players and coaches to stand during the national anthem. Although there was no mention of punishment should players choose to kneel, he expressed that the league has a rule in place disallowing players from sitting or kneeling during the anthem.
In the memo, obtained by Complex Sports, Tatum asked that teams use their season openers “to demonstrate your commitment to the NBA’s core values of equality, diversity, inclusion and serve as a unifying force in the community.” The memo continued:
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.
Teams are urged to show videos prior to tip-off in their efforts to exemplify unity. It was also recommended that a player or coach address fans directly if a message is to be conveyed.
Earlier this month, NFL players across the country took a knee during the anthem in protest of police brutality and in honor of Colin Kaepernick's decision to spearhead the gesture. This collective demonstration roused a response from the president, causing something of a sociopolitical tidal wave. NBA players Lebron James and Steph Curry both spoke out in support of NFL players’ decision to take a knee, and publicly criticized Donald Trump for claiming they should be fired for doing so.
More likely than not, individual NBA players or entire teams are going to express their solidarity for the Black Lives Matter movement (something their counterparts in the WNBA have been at the forefront of), whether that be in the form of kneeling during the anthem or not. And it's not because they don't have respect for the NBA or the white men who run it. It's because they should have the right to take a stand against the bigotry and racism that continues to plague this country.