The Trail Blazers on Sunday for the National Anthem huddled in a circle with their arms around each other in what Damian Lillard said was in conjunction with other professional athletes’ civil rights protest in this country.
“I’m a proud American, but the reason behind the protesting, I share that same belief,’’ Lillard said. “I share the same feeling, being an African American. Obviously, every other guy on the team shares that belief as well.’’
Lillard said the Blazers will continue to huddle during future National Anthems, beginning with Monday’s exhibition opener against Utah at the Moda Center.
The movement was started by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who has knelt during the National Anthem since the NFL preseason in protest of African Americans being killed by police officers. He has since been joined by other NFL players and WNBA players.
The Blazers have traditionally lined up about 15 feet from the baseline, extending from sideline to sideline. But on Sunday, they huddled with arms around each other in the middle of the key near the basket by their bench.
“It was showing we are together,’’ center Mason Plumlee said. “As a team we all support each other. We all come from different situations, yet we are close, and we just wanted to show that. Hopefully people in society can have the same relationships like we have on our team. We are a very close team and we are very proud of that.’’
Added Maurice Harkless: “The whole message was us being together, us as one, and being equal. Us huddling like that is a great way to display that unity and that togetherness between us, and as a whole, people in general.’’