J.R. Smith knows the NBA is watching what players do before games, but that doesn’t mean he can’t protest scrimmages. Smith told reporters on Friday that he protested before a Cavaliers scrimmage on Monday, and was critical of the flag and its symbolism in the face of athletes protesting to raise awareness of police brutality against people of color.
Smith had previously been critical of LeSean McCoy for calling out Colin Kaepernick’s silent protest, which the quarterback carried out last season. As the sports world became embroiled in anthem controversies thanks to Donald Trump essentially calling Kaepernick a “son of a bitch,” many wondered what NBA players would do on the court. Thus far, the answer is not all that much, but Smith is certainly speaking out.
“I don’t feel like the flag represents what it’s supposed to at this point,” Smith told reporters on Friday.
Smith continued to explain that the Cavaliers didn’t specifically discuss protests, but he personally decided he would stand a few feet behind his teammates during a Monday scrimmage to protest the anthem.
“We obviously didn’t discuss what we were going to do as a team, and I definitely, I don’t feel, it’s not an easy situation for me with the national anthem,” Smith said Friday, following the Cavs’ morning shootaround. “Especially coming from where I come from, it’s just not. I don’t feel like it’s represented the right way, obviously it’s a tough conversation for everybody, and it still needs to be, I wouldn’t say talked about, because there’s been a lot of conversations about it, it’s time to start doing. What efforts are we going to put towards it?”
Smith didn’t linger behind his teammates during Cleveland’s preseason game on Wednesday against the Atlanta Hawks. He said he would do that if “that’s what the guys wanted to do.”
The NBA has been stern in its guidelines, which say that all players must appear on the court and stand for the anthem. But Smith has been snarky about that guideline, retweeting a report about the guidelines with a sarcastic “yeah ight” earlier in the month. It doesn’t seem like he will ignore NBA commissioner Adam Silver’s reminder of the policy, but he might try to find creative ways around it this season.