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