The NBA may be the most player-driven major American sport. As a result, its stars have a ton of leeway to discuss social issues, something that is top of mind as the league gets set to restart during a summer where racial inequality is at the front of mind in the country.
The first regular season games of the restart are scheduled for Thursday night. The Utah Jazz and New Orleans Pelicans ring in the occasion, tipping off at 6:30 p.m. ET.
Both teams are reportedly expected to kneel around the court's "Black Lives Matter" message during the national anthem ahead of the game. Given that the protest became widespread in the NFL years ago thanks to Colin Kaepernick, and will likely be even bigger if and when football returns this fall, this doesn't seem too monumental. However, unlike the NFL, NBA rules state that players must stand during the anthem.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver was asked about the potential for protests during the national anthem on Good Morning America this morning. While he stops short of condoning the protests, he seems to understand that they're coming, and that the moment may call for an a breach of the league's rules here. From Marc Stein of The New York Times.
"I'm not sure what our players will do when they come out tomorrow night and we'll of course address it at the time," Silver continued, to Good Morning America's Robin Roberts. "But I also understand these are highly unusual times."
It is a similar answer to the one he gave to reporters a month ago:
“Again, I’m not comfortable with the word ‘allow,'” Silver said. “We’ve had a rule on our books that goes back to the early 80’s, that proceeds even David Stern’s tenure as commissioner. That calls for players to stand in a line at attention during the national anthem. I also understand the role of protest, and I think we’ll deal with that situations when it presents itself.”
The Jazz and Pelicans will be followed by a rivalry game between the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers at 9 p.m. on Thursday night. A slew of games will be played on Friday, with these final eight regular season games for each team serving to sort out the 16 playoff spots.
On Pelicans and Jazz players and coaches and their expected plans to kneel in solidarity around the BLACK LIVES MATTER floor lettering during Thursday night's national anthem, NBA commissioner Adam Silver told @GMA this morning: "I respect peaceful protest."
— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) July 29, 2020