The NBA sent a memo on Friday to all teams reiterating their rule that players and coaches stand for the national anthem. The memo suggested alternative ways in which players could address the recent protest movement that has swept across the NFL and some other sports.
The memo, which was also obtained by ESPN, was sent by NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum. It gives this instruction, “the league office will determine how to deal with any possible instance in which a player, coach, or trainer does not stand for the anthem.” It further states that teams “do not have the discretion to waive” the rule that players, coaches and staff stand for the anthem. The NBA has the discretion to use discipline against any player that violates the rule, but it is not clear as of yet if they would exercise that discretion if there is a protest.
Some of the alternative ways to protest against the current political climate could be players and coached giving a joint pregame address at their first home games.
“This could include a message of unity and how the team is committed to bringing the community together this season,” the memo states. The NBA also suggests teams might prepare a video tribute or public service announcement featuring “team leadership speaking about the issues they care about.” The commissioner of the NBA, Adam Silver, had said a day before the memo appeared that he expects players to stand for the national anthem.
This protest, mostly in the NFL, started last season when quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the national anthem to express his frustration with social and racial injustice and police brutality. This season, dozens of NFL players followed suit, especially after President Trump said owners should fire players who protest during the anthem. The Dallas Cowboys locked arms and knelt just before the national anthem on Monday Night Football, and then stood for the anthem.
The NBA is trying to find a middle ground in how it responds to the new wave of protests surrounding the Trump administration. Silver and Michele Roberts, executive director of the players’ union, have consistently urged players to address issues that matter to them. And Mark Tatum wants players to “continue to develop impactful community programs,” including mentorship programs, community gatherings, using basketball to “build bridges” between segments of a community.
Do you believe that the NBA will find a delicate balance in this political turmoil of protest?