What To Expect With NBA Players and the National Anthem
Colin Kaepernick started something. Look for NBA players to take it to another level.
Colin Kaepernick may have changed sports for the foreseeable future when he decided to peacefully protest the national anthem. Eyebrows were raised, intentions were questioned, and effectiveness was debated. But Colin Kaepernick was just the beginning.
The NFL will never be mistaken for a progressive, morally-sound league (see: handling of Ray Rice incident and the concussion/CTE issue, among many other). It’s athletes, outside of the handful of elite players, are mostly faceless, and, as a result of the league’s strict rules and tone-deaf policing, voiceless.
The NBA is the complete opposite. There are no helmets covering players’ faces and there is little discouragement for players to speak out. Whether its the league’s decision to strip Charlotte of its privilege to host the 2017 All-Star festivities in response to the LGBTQ-discriminatory HB2 laws, or Derrick Rose silently wearing a “I can’t breathe” shirt during pre-game warm-ups, or the ESPY call-to-action speech by Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade, and LeBron James (aka #TeamBananaBoat) regarding activism by professional athletes, the NBA — as an American entity and a collection of individuals — has consistently been at the helm of tackling societal issues and its athletes are some of the most outspoken we have today.
What is of note is that there seems to be a misnomer that the NBA has an official rule regarding player conduct during the national anthem. Many seem to have their eye on the following excerpt from the official NBA rule book:
“Players, coaches and trainers are to stand and line up in a dignified posture along the sidelines or on the foul line during the playing of the National Anthem.” (p.61)
However, this excerpt is under the “Comments on the Rules” section of the official rule book, which is why it has no official rule index number, and why this section of the rule book is preceded by this caveat:
“The restrictions placed upon the player by the rules are intended to create a balance of play […] without unduly limiting freedom of action of player or team.” (p. 58)
If what’s written beneath this section are all official rules, then the “rule” immediately after the national anthem conduct “rule” that states that players must have their jerseys tucked in during games would have led to Chicago Bulls wing Jimmy Butler being fined multiple times. He hasn’t been fined at all, and that’s why it’s reasonable to expect the national anthem conduct “rule” to not deter players from protesting. Even if this section of the rule book is recognized as official rules, commissioner Adam Silver is not as rigid and tone-deaf as NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, and, therefore, is unlikely to enforce the rule to the letter.
That’s why you can expect NBA players to continue what Colin Kaepernick started. Not only that, you can expect them to take the conversation to another level. Colin Kaepernick — a once Super Bowl-caliber quarterback but now back-up and average NFL player — was able to cause a shake-up of this magnitude. Imagine the effect the NBA’s biggest stars, like LeBron James, or Stephen Curry, or Kevin Durant, some of the most recognizable and most famous athletes in the world, will have when the spotlight is on them and they take a knee during the national anthem.
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