Pacers: Meme Attributed to Larry Bird About NBA, Politics Is 'Totally False'

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistAugust 31, 2020

Larry Bird poses in the press room with the lifetime achievement award at the NBA Awards on Monday, June 24, 2019, at the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, Calif. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)
Richard Shotwell/Associated Press

A meme featuring a purported quote of Larry Bird criticizing current NBA players for their political stance is "totally false," according to the Indiana Pacers.

Carlos Diaz of WHTR reached out to the team Sunday and got an unequivocal denial on behalf of the Hall of Famer. The meme circulating included a fake Bird quote calling on players to "shut up and play the damn game" and appeared after players briefly went on strike last week in protest of racial discrimination and police brutality against Black people following Jacob Blake's shooting in Wisconsin. 

Bird has remained mostly apolitical throughout public life, though he famously refused to visit the Ronald Reagan White House in 1984 after the Celtics won the NBA championship. 

“If the president wants to see me, he knows where to find me," Bird told the Boston Globe then.

Bird's brother, Mark, sought political office in 2018.

The fake Bird quote was largely circulated in Republican/conservative circles, with most of the party's political leaders being publicly critical of NBA players and the Black Lives Matter movement. President Donald Trump said over the weekend the protests will "destroy basketball.'

The NBA and its players have had an at-times contentious relationship with Republican lawmakers during the Trump administration, including Trump himself. The false quote was likely created in part to smear current players against the past generation, given Bird's standing as a popular figure.