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LeBron James: I Hope We Made Colin Kaepernick 'Proud' by Kneeling During Anthem

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorJuly 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/Pool Photo via AP)
Mike Ehrmann/Associated Press

Los Angeles Lakers guard/forward LeBron James told reporters he hoped the NBA made ex-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick proud following pregame protests during the national anthem.

Mark Medina @MarkG_Medina

LeBron James on kneeling during the anthem to protest systemic racism: “I hope we made Kaep proud.” LeBron then explains his gratitude for the military https://t.co/FHYWyD06Hm

"Kap was someone who stood up when times weren’t comfortable," James said (h/t Lauren A. Jones of the Los Angeles Sentinel). "When people didn’t understand...it had absolutely nothing to do about the flag he explained that and people never listened. I did! We just thank him for sacrificing everything that he did."

Kaepernick kneeled during the national anthem to protest systemic racism and police brutality during the 2016 NFL season.

As Rhiannon Walker (then of The Undefeated) noted in an aggregation of responses to Kaepernick's actions, the quarterback received praise, severe criticism and some mixed reactions to his work in the sports world.

Ultimately, Kaepernick found himself out of NFL work following the 2016 season despite his production on a mostly moribund 49ers team (18 total touchdowns and just four interceptions in 11 games).

On Thursday, players, coaches and referees taking part in the Utah Jazz vs. New Orleans Pelicans and Los Angeles Lakers vs. Los Angeles Clippers games all knelt during the anthem, with players wearing "Black Lives Matter" t-shirts.

NBA @NBA

The @utahjazz and @PelicansNBA kneel in solidarity as @JonBatiste performs the National Anthem prior to the NBA Restart. https://t.co/dQeHSbUx87

Los Angeles Lakers @Lakers

United for a greater cause. #BlackLivesMatter https://t.co/dthLmon0a7

NBA players have continued to promote the fight for social justice as they play out the remainder of the season on the league's Walt Disney World campus near Orlando, Florida amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused a four-and-a-half month suspension of the 2019-20 campaign beginning March 11.

James expounded upon the league's messaging in a postgame interview with NBA TV and NBA on TNT reporter Jared Greenberg following his team's 103-101 victory, which was capped by his game-winning shot with 12.8 seconds remaining and subsequent shutdown defense on the other end:

NBA on TNT @NBAonTNT

“We want to continue to put our foot on the gas… continue to spread love throughout America.” @KingJames discusses the NBA's restart & social change w/ @JaredSGreenberg. https://t.co/HubuVKV03X

He also posted this Instagram caption associated with an image of him raising his fist while kneeling during the anthem on Thursday: "What’s your purpose in life??? Create change, motivate and inspire others are some of mine! I just hope I continue to make y’all proud! Love you all! ❤️❤️❤️✊🏾✊🏾 #BlackLivesMatter #ThankYouKap #JusticeForBreonnaTaylor💔"

Messaging from players has come in various forms, with some delivering thoughts during postgame or post-practice press conferences.

Of note, after Utah's 104-102 win over the Pels, Jazz shooting guard Donovan Mitchell revealed a bulletproof vest that listed people killed due to police brutality:

Taylor Rooks @TaylorRooks

A statement - Donovan Mitchell has a bullet proof vest. The vest features the name of numerous people killed because of police brutality. He adds the quote “Am I next?” https://t.co/wUp1QYYNQk

Furthermore, players on all four teams listed messages on the back of their jerseys in support of social justice, with examples including "Say Her Name," "Equality" and "Black Lives Matter."

The NBA's restart will continue Friday with six more games, starting with the Orlando Magic's tilt with the Brooklyn Nets at 2:30 p.m. ET. 

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