Let the (political) games begin!
The much awaited return of the NBA is officially underway.
Unfortunately, with it’s return, comes the social justice messaging that most fans were dreading.
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In an act of solidarity, the players coaches and referees all kneeled for the National Anthem.
Our friends at Fox News have the srory:
The NBA is finally back -- and ahead of the first game of the league's restart, players from both teams joined coaches and referees to kneel during the national anthem.
The league had to shift to a bubble format in Orlando, Fla., due to the coronavirus pandemic, and in the aftermath of the nationwide protests, following the death of Minneapolis man George Floyd, players have focused on social justice, as well as the Black Lives Matter movement.
Players from the New Orleans Pelicans and Utah Jazz, as well as the game’s referees, made a statement on Thursday prior to tip-off. During a pre-recorded version of the national anthem, everyone on the court took a knee, while some players locked arms, and others raised their fists in the air.
Both the Pelicans and Jazz released statements on the matter.
"The New Orleans Pelicans stand by the ideals of freedom of speech and the right to peacefully protest. Collectively with the Utah Jazz, our organization joins the NBA in supporting our players and coaches," the Pelicans wrote.
The Jazz added: "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, use their voices, their experiences, and their platforms to peacefully express themselves."
The NBA has had a rule going back to the early 1980s that players must stand for the national anthem. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, anticipating that players would kneel during these games at Walt Disney World, has made clear that he supported peaceful protests.
"I respect our teams' unified act of peaceful protest for social justice and under these unique circumstances will not enforce our long-standing rule requiring standing during the playing of our national anthem," Silver told reporters Thursday.
Many players warmed up wearing "Black Lives Matter" shirts. Thursday also marked the debut of new jerseys bearing messages that many players chose to have added, such as "Equality" and "Peace."
NBA players have used their platforms — both in the bubble and on social media — to demand equality and justice. Coaches have also said it is incumbent on them to demand change and educate themselves and others. The pregame actions by the Jazz and the Pelicans were just the start of what is expected to be a constant during the remainder of this season.
The NBA has been glaringly hypocritical with it's stance on social justice issues in the United States, considering their continuous refusal to condemn China for their treatment of citizens.
Even worse, the NBA just had a bombshell dropped on them in the form of new information accusing the NBA of turning a blind eye to the human rights abuses at Chinese NBA-affiliated basketball camps.
At least one high profile NBA personality took a moment to stand up for any player who refuses to kneel during the Anthem.
Charles Barkley emphasized that anyone who stands is "not a bad person, and shouldn't be vilified."
Here's more on Barkley's comments from The Blaze:
Basketball icon Charles Barkley weighed into the debate over sports players kneeling for the Black Lives Matter movement and he's earning a lot of angry responses online over it.
Barkley made the comments on "The Inside Guys" on TNT on Thursday after Shaquille O'Neal applauded players and coaches for kneeling before the first NBA game of the season.
"When you have you platform, I think it is very important that you speak up, it's very important that you speak your mind but when you talk about change, you also have to talk about protocol," said O'Neal.
"So we use our voice to bring awareness," he continued. "Now we have to go vote, we have to vote our mayors in, our mayors are to appoint new chiefs of police. We have to vote senators and politicians. It doesn't just stop with sending our a tweet or yelling all the time."
"The thing is, listen, that's gonna mean different things to different people," responded Barkley.
"I'm glad these guys are all unified, but if people don't kneel, they're not a bad person," he added.
"I want to make that perfectly clear, I'm glad they had unity," Barkley concluded, "but if we have a guy who doesn't want to kneel because the anthem means something to him, he should not be vilified."
He went on to criticize players for only speaking out on social justice and said that they should go into black communities and help create businesses and be active in creating change.
It remains to be seen how the NBA's actions will effect their popularity going forward.
It's hard to tell for sure if fans will rebel, especially since coronavirus concerns are still preventing fan attendence at games.
However, if social media is any indication, many are willing to tune out.
For the NBA, they may want to get used to the cardboard fan cutouts.