LeBron James and his Los Angeles Lakers teammates, along with players from the Los Angeles Clippers, Utah Jazz and New Orleans Pelicans, knelt during the national anthem on Thursday to protest racial injustice and police brutality.
It was the first manifestation of the national anthem since Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf refused to run for “The Star-Spangled Banner” in the 1990s, while playing for the Denver Nuggets.
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On their knees, the players followed a precedent set by NFL free agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who started a firestorm in 2016 when he sat and knelt during the National anthem.
James said after the game, “I hope we made Kap proud,” USA Today reported.
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“Kap was someone who got up when times weren’t comfortable,” James added, according to the Los Angeles Sentinel. “When people didn’t understand… it had absolutely nothing to do with the flag, he explained it and people never listened. I did! We just thank him for sacrificing everything he did.
Players, coaches and referees broke a long-standing rule that has been in place in the NBA since the 1980s, requiring players to represent the national anthem. NBA commissioner Adam Silver appeared to support the players’ peaceful protest. He made a statement after the Jazz and Pelicans rally ahead of their game.
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“I respect the unified act of peaceful protest by our social justice teams and under these unique circumstances, I will not enforce our long-standing rule of standing while our national anthem is being read,” Silver said. , according to the New York Times.