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Adam Silver on players kneeling during national anthem: ‘I respect peaceful protest’

Adam Silver national athem

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - FEBRUARY 15: NBA Commissioner Adam Silver speaks to the media during a press conference at the United Center on February 15, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

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When NBA games start Thursday night, NBA players will take a knee, very likely around the Black Lives Matter written on all the restart game courts.

The NBA has a rule requiring players to stand for the national anthem, but the league is not expected to enforce that. Commissioner Adam Silver said as much in an appearance on Good Morning America Wednesday.

“I respect peaceful protest. 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, but I also understand these are highly unusual times,” Silver said.

“Address it” is an interesting phrasing, but don’t expect the league to punish players for taking a knee. Back in 2016, when Collin Kaepernick was kneeling and there was a discussion about whether NBA players would follow his lead (they didn’t). An NBA league office official told NBC Sports it was unlikely any punishment would be handed down if they had followed Kaepernick’s lead. This person noted that at the time the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks would all leave the floor during the anthem in a very conspicuous protest — something happening again right now in the WNBA restart — the league’s reaction was to let the players do what they thought was right. Expect the same now.

Of course there will be some “outrage” over the players’ actions politicians trying to score easy points and lazy political analysts ignoring the issues behind the symbolism. A few fans (and a lot of Russian Twitter bots) will follow their lead.

The players get that, and more importantly they know their message is being heard. Especially by the generations that will be making the decisions in a few years.