NBA Referee Brent Barnaky Explains Standing for Anthem Before Celtics vs. Bucks

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorAugust 1, 2020

Referee Brent Barnaky runs up court during the second half of an NBA basketball game between the Detroit Pistons and the Milwaukee Bucks, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

Many NBA players, coaches and referees have knelt during the national anthem in protest against police brutality and systemic racism during the league's 2019-20 season restart in Walt Disney World near Orlando, Florida.

There have been some exceptions, with referee Brent Barnaky being one of them. He provided a statement to ESPN's Tim Bontemps regarding his decision to stand prior to Friday's Boston Celtics vs. Milwaukee Bucks game:

Others who stood include San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, Spurs assistant Becky Hammon and Orlando Magic forward Jonathan Isaac.

Per Jared Weiss of The Athletic, Barnaky stood with his hand over his heart and eyes closed.

Barnaky has worked as an NBA referee since the 2009-10 season, per Basketball-Reference. The 45-year-old worked as a college ref for a decade prior to the jump to the pros.

Per the National Basketball Referees AssociationBarnaky worked as a civil trial lawyer prior to becoming an NBA official. The NBRA noted that he still works pro bono for "public-at-large clients in need of legal services."

Others who stood for the anthem during the restart include San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, Spurs assistant Becky Hammon and Orlando Magic forward Jonathan Isaac.

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Popovich and Isaac provided comments following their teams' respective victories.

"I prefer to keep that to myself," Popovich said per ESPN's Ohm Youngmisuk"Everybody has to make a personal decision. The league has been great about that. Everybody has the freedom to react any way that they want. For whatever reasons that I have, I reacted the way I wanted to."

Spurs guard/forward DeMar DeRozan spoke in support of Popovich and Hammon postgame:

Isaac spoke about his decision after the Magic's win over the Nets following questions from Taylor Rooks of Bleacher Report.

The NBA 2019-20 season restart is taking place at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex following a four-and-a-half month league suspension due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Twenty-two teams are taking part in the NBA restart, with games beginning July 30.

All the matchups have featured players, coaches and refs kneeling during the anthem, with players (and some others) wearing Black Lives Matter T-shirts. 

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