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Lakers, Clippers Kneel During National Anthem Before Opener at NBA Restart

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistJuly 31, 2020

Los Angeles Lakers' LeBron James, second from left, wears a Black Lives Matter shirt and kneels with teammates during the national anthem prior to an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Clippers, Thursday, July 30, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Imagesvia AP, Pool)
Mike Ehrmann/Associated Press

The Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers players, along with their coaching staffs and NBA game officials, knelt during the national anthem ahead of their game Thursday night.

The demonstration followed a similar protest against systemic racism in the United States by the Utah Jazz and New Orleans Pelicans before their game, which was the first of the NBA's restart in Orlando, Florida.

NBA on TNT @NBAonTNT

The @Lakers and @LAClippers kneel during the National Anthem. https://t.co/A0OdsXNKm3

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

✊👑 https://t.co/T7DQMbTQKD

Lakers star LeBron James spoke on the matter after the Lakers' 103-101 victory:

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

“In the past when we’ve seen progress, we’ve let our foot off the gas a little bit. We can’t do that.” Bron addressed where he feels the country is at with fighting social injustice after the game. (via @NBAonTNT) https://t.co/Svk3rwmHmg

Ben Golliver @BenGolliver

LeBron James on Lakers & NBA players following Colin Kaepernicks’s lead by kneeling: “I hope we made Kaep proud.” https://t.co/th0ysPBdsj

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver released a statement of support for the players after the demonstration before the Jazz-Pelicans game. 

"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 said in the statement.

The NBA has had a policy requiring players to stand for the anthem since 1981. The league briefly suspended Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf for kneeling in 1996.

Silver had been noncommittal about the league's reaction to protests during the anthem leading up to Thursday's restart, though he did consistently say he respects peaceful protest. Players in the Orlando bubble came together and decided to demonstrate together, kneeling in front of the "Black Lives Matter" sign on the court.

The TNT broadcast also featured a message promoting racial justice before the tip of each game. Players have made social justice issues a major component of the NBA restart, including the "Black Lives Matter" signage on the court and players wearing messages on the backs of their jerseys. 

Players have also regularly called for justice for the death of Breonna Taylor in interviews. 

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