Players, coaches and front office officials from the Wizards and Suns, all wearing 'Black Lives Matter' t-shirts, lined up arm-in-arm and kneeled together during the national anthem on Friday, just before the two teams tipped off the homestretch of their regular season schedules in Orlando. It was a display of unity, of people of all colors and backgrounds, both young and old.
It was all to raise awareness for social justice issues and Wizards point guard Ish Smith had one main takeaway from the experience.
"I think for me it just showed that we're together," Smith said. "That's the word I can think of; 'togetherness.' To see all of us as a league come together for a cause and continue to talk about and continue to put some action to it after we talk about it. The biggest word I think of, and it was powerful, is that as a league we're together."
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Smith left it at that, but it's not hard to read between the lines. The NBA is making a collective effort to shine a light on issues of race in society. Though this is not the first time athletes have kneeled for the anthem, everyone joining in to do it all at once is a new phenomenon.
Before, the players across sports who kneeled for the anthem or spoke out may not have felt the sense of together. But now they do.
Wizards rookie Rui Hachimura saw it similarly.
"It was great for everybody to get together with the kneeling for the national anthem," he said. "As a team, we are really big on that type of stuff, social justice [issues]. It's time to make a change."
NBA players have been outspoken in saying they want to continue the conversation. How they do that remains to be seen. But clearly Smith and other see there is power in numbers and having everybody on board.
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