NBA teams and coaches kneel during national anthem as season restarts

NBA players and coaches from four teams took a knee during the national anthem on Thursday night in the first set of games since the league paused its season over the coronavirus pandemic. The demonstration, inspired by free agent NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, calls attention to racial injustice and police brutality. 

In the first game of the season restart, between the New Orleans Pelicans and Utah Jazz, players and coaches kneeled during “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” bandleader Jon Batiste’s rendition of the national anthem. The team members also wore Black Lives Matter shirts and locked arms.

In the next game, players and coaches from the Los Angles Lakers and the Los Angeles Clippers kneeled together in solidarity during Compton Kidz Club’s version of the “Star Spangled Banner.” 

Utah Jazz v New Orleans Pelicans
Members of the New Orleans Pelicans and Utah Jazz kneel before a Black Lives Matter logo before the start of their game at HP Field House at ESPN Wide World Of Sports Complex on Thursday.  Ashley Landis / Getty Images

The Pelicans issued a statement on the protest, saying they “stand by the ideals of freedom of speech and the right to peacefully protest.” 

The Jazz also put out a statement in support of its team members, writing, “The Utah Jazz are committed to advancing social justice and stand in support of the players, coaches and staff as they exercise their First Amendment rights, and use their voices, their experiences, and their platforms to peacefully express themselves.”

Los Angeles Clippers v Los Angeles Lakers
LeBron James in points up as he kneels with his teammates during the national anthem prior to the game against the LA Clippers.  ME / Getty Images

In the aftermath of George Floyd’s death, many players have participated in Black Lives Matter protests and voiced the need for social change. After discussions with teams, the NBA allowed players to have pre-approved social justice messages on the backs of their jerseys.

Los Angeles Laker LeBron James and other players have also kept the spotlight on Breonna Taylor, a Black EMT who was killed in her home by police executing a drug raid. None of the officers involved in Taylor’s death have been charged. 

The Pelicans, Jazz, Lakers and Clippers are among the 22 teams at the Disney World complex in Orlando. They’ll each play eight seeding games over the next two weeks to determine the playoff standings.