NBA players are planning to kneel during the national anthem on the opening nights of the restarted season at Disney World, according to Brad Turner of The Los Angeles Times. That decision was instigated after a meeting of the teams staying at the Gran Destino Tower: the Lakers, Clippers, Bucks, Raptors, Celtics, Nuggets, Jazz and Heat. Among those teams, the Lakers, Clippers and Jazz play on the first night of the restart, July 30. The only other team to play that night is the New Orleans Pelicans. It is not clear if they were involved in the meeting or the decision.
Technically, kneeling during the national anthem is not allowed by NBA rules. No NBA player did so when Colin Kaepernick initially began protesting police brutality and racial inequality. Commissioner Adam Silver addressed the possibility of kneeling in June and did not clarify whether or not the NBA would amend its rules to reflect the current social justice environment.
"I am not comfortable with the word 'allow,'" Silver said. "I think we have had a rule on our books that goes back to the early '80s that precedes even David Stern's tenure as commissioner that calls for players to stand in a line and attention during the national anthem. I also understand the role of protest and I think that we'll deal with that situation when it presents itself."
The NBA has traditionally been more socially conscious than most American professional sports leagues, and a coalition of players formed around restart discussions in an effort to further promote social justice and diversity within the league's power structure. The courts in Orlando have the words "Black Lives Matter" painted on them, and players are allowed to wear approved social justice messages on the backs of their jerseys when the season restarts.
Those steps are a start, but the league still has a ways to go. Some players have been disappointed by the list of approved messages, and while that coalition is pushing for changes, the league has not yet announced any major changes aimed at helping more diverse candidates land coaching and executive roles. Now players are taking a step that, to this point, they had avoided. That was to be expected given the activism many players have engaged in since protests against systemic racism began earlier in the summer, but it is still unprecedented in the history of the NBA.