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Report: NBA players expected to kneel during national anthem, not face discipline

NBA national anthem

CLEVELAND, OH - APRIL 15: The flag during the national anthem on the jumbotron before the game between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Indiana Pacers in Round One of the Eastern Conference Playoffs during the 2017 NBA Playoffs on April 15, 2017 at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. 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. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images)

NBAE via Getty Images

Colin Kaepernick courageously kneeled during the national anthem to protest racism, particularly through police brutality.

NBA players… didn’t.

Kaepernick’s protest worked. People have become more sensitive to racism and police brutality. You can draw a straight line from Kaepernick’s protest to the large crowds marching in the streets in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death. NBA players are increasingly vocal in pursuing racial justice.

Yet, the NBA still has a rule requiring players to stand for the national anthem. People who kneel during the anthem still (inaccurately) get criticized for being unpatriotic and disrespectful of the military.

What’s going to give?

Sam Amick of The Athletic:

those who would know within the league are expecting some players to peacefully protest the national anthem when it’s played before games that begin in Orlando on July 30
“Entire teams (might kneel),” one agent predicted.
The source said the league would not discipline players who protest peacefully and respectfully.

A few years ago, the NBA worked with players behind the scenes to ensure nobody would kneel during the anthem. The league wanted to be supportive – but also avoid backlash. Owners also wanted to enforce their own sensibilities.

As popular opinion has shifted, teams have embraced social justicewith limits. This is still a business, after all.

Apparently, kneeling during the national anthem will fall into the “technically banned but effectively allowable” category. It’s similar to when NBA commissioner Adam Silver, asked about players wearing “I CAN’T BREATHE” shirts, brought up attire rules but didn’t discipline anyone.

Players and owners trust Silver. He faces a challenge here. Silver must balance the interests of owners* (his bosses), players and fans.

*Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who can attend games, said he’d join Dallas players if they kneel.

The public outcry could be loud.

But kneeling during the national is such a perfect form of protest. It’s peaceful. It’s noticeable. The symbolism is sharp.

People too easily wrap themselves in the flag while ignoring the problems plaguing this country. Seeing someone kneel during the national anthem is a harsh reminder that the United States has failed to live up to its stated ideals.

The players who kneel will get criticized. They’ll also advance an important cause.