The national anthem has been a polarizing subject ever since Colin Kaepernick decided to use it as an occasion to protest injustice and inequality in America more than a year ago. Since then, the sports world has seen multiple forms of protests and even had Steven Seagal reacting to the events.
With all the NFL anthem protests going on, one can only wonder what might happen when the NBA season kicks off. Preseason games start in a few days, and Commissioner Adam Silver has publicly gone on record that he expects players to stand for the anthem.
On the heels of Silver’s statements, the league sent a memo to all 30 teams reminding players, coaches, officials and trainers that they are required to stand for the anthem as mandated in NBA bylaws. However, there’s a wrinkle in the rules that can make things interesting when it comes to the players’ ability to speak out about social issues.
In the memo, Tatum suggests teams might address the current political climate by having players and coaches give a joint pregame address. “This could include a message of unity and how the team is committed to bringing the community together this season,” the memo states. The memo also suggests teams might prepare a video tribute or public service announcement featuring “team leadership speaking about the issues they care about.”
On first glance, customizing the social outreach message sounds like a good idea. However, without knowing the sensibilities of each individual owner, one can see that this is a benign tool to keep the NBA viable to those who are not fans of NFL players protesting the anthem.
Whether this will appease fans going into the NBA season is unknown at this point. The bigger question is whether players will abide by the current rule. LeBron James and Stephen Curry – two of the bigger names in the NBA – have already been vocally anti Donald Trump and anti-oppression. Both earn more than enough money to protest the anthem all season and make a mockery of the bylaw. The question then becomes whether the NBA offices will come to a compromise before then.