NBA, NBPA discussing how to handle player anthem protests
The league has an established rule regarding the anthem, but is working with the union about players' freedom of expression
As protests and tensions regarding racial equality and ongoing incidents of violence continue across the country, and as protests during The Star-Spangled Banner that originated with Colin Kaepernick continue and expand across sports and teams, the NBA understands that its own players are likely going to be involved in the coming weeks. NBA preseason begins starting Friday with media day for teams traveling overseas.
The NBA established a rule long ago that players have to stand for the national anthem. They used it to suspend Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf in the 1990s for his protest over similar issues, but lifted the suspension after an agreement was reached with Abdul-Rauf for him to pray silently. However, the NBA also has long been more forward thinking when it comes to its relationship with the players. Former commissioner David Stern took actions that warranted criticism, but overall Stern also very openly made it clear that the NBA was a player's league and worked to foster a relationship with the players. Adam Silver has not only continued but expanded that trend.
To that end, the NBA is looking to not merely deal with the aftermath of whatever protests or statements the players might make regarding these issues, but is working to actually foster a conversation in advance so that the league can support the players, but also so that it can try and prevent incidents that could harm their image or sponsor relationships. The league and NBPA have met to try and put together a plan.
NBA & union to work together to manage protests. It's against NBA rules to not stand for anthem but league has supported social commentary— Brian Windhorst (@WindhorstESPN) September 22, 2016
Multiple coaches have said they plan to discuss the issues with the players, and fostering a conversation is likely the best thing teams can do. These aren't issues that can be solved in a locker room meeting or with any community outreach from the league. But they also don't have to be issues that tear a team or the league apart.
More than anything, though, this should be a notice to sports fans that this story is only going to continue once the NBA season starts, and the conversation about these issues will only grow louder.
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