by Denis Slattery
The NBA has a message for its players: Show a video, share some photos, address the crowd, but don’t even think about kneeling during the national anthem.
League brass sent a memo to teams late Friday, a day after Commissioner Adam Silver said he expects players to follow NBA rules and stand for “The Star-Spangled Banner,” suggesting alternatives to addressing the recent protest movement sweeping across the NFL and other sports.
In the memo, first reported by ESPN, Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum suggests teams use their opening games “to demonstrate your commitment to the NBA’s core values of equality, diversity, inclusion and serve as a unifying force in the community.”
The memo drew heat from fans and critics who contend that the league should leave the issue up to the players.
“I’m truly at a loss for words, saddened & disgusted that the @NBA would send a memo reminding players to stand OR ELSE in this environment,” state Sen. Michael Blake (D-Bronx) tweeted.
Tatum said the league supports and encourages players to express their opinions, while reminding them that they, along with coaches and trainers, must stand respectfully for the anthem or face repercussions.
“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. (Teams do not have the discretion to waive this rule),” the memo says.
The season opens Oct. 17 with a showdown between the Boston Celtics and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Cavs star LeBron James, who publicly criticized President Trump and his reaction to NFL protests, has not said whether he intends to kneel at the game.
James called Trump a “bum” on Twitter after the President withdrew an invitation to the White House to the 2017 NBA champion Golden State Warriors, singling out Stephen Curry.
The NBA memo recommends an address by a player or coach to fans before the anthem, or a video featuring players or community leaders speaking about issues and showing photos from past community events – instead of kneeling.
Last week, the sidelines at NFL games were flush with dozens of players kneeling, a sign of protest started a year earlier by quarterback Colin Kaepernick to raise awareness of police brutality against black people in America.
Rapper JAY-Z offered silent support of Kaepernick on Saturday by wearing a jersey with the No. 7 that said “Colin K” on the back on the season premiere of Saturday Night Live.
The recent show of unity was sparked by the President referring to protesting pro football players as “sons of b—–s” and imploring owners to fire them.
Players took knees and linked arms at several games last week.
The Pittsburgh Steelers decided as a team not to take the field until after the anthem. One player, Alejandro Villanueva, a former U.S. Army Ranger who won a bronze star for valor, went onto the field alone, which he later apologized for. The team said they will stand together on the field this week.
Several teams have said they will take a knee ahead of the anthem – like the Dallas Cowboys did Monday night – or stand together with arms linked during the song on Sunday.