Moments before tipoff on Thursday evening, players with the New Orleans Pelicans and the Utah Jazz, joined by coaches and game officials, all took a knee.
The Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers followed suit ahead of their game in Orlando.
On some game jerseys, players’ names were replaced with messages, such as “Equality,” “I am a man,” “Ally,” and “Say her name,” sending a clear message in support of the social justice movement.
After the moment, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said he will not force players to stand during the anthem.
“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.”
The New Orleans Pelicans, in a statement, said the team stands by the “ideals of freedom of speech and the right to peacefully protest.”
“Collectively with the Utah Jazz, our organization joins the NBA in supporting our players and coaches. To promote meaningful change relative to social justice and racial equality, the New Orleans Pelicans have partnered with our players, staff and coaches to create a Social Justice Leadership Alliance committed to furthering the discussion, listening and learning and taking action to make positive change in our community and our country,” it said.
The Jazz stated the team is “committed to advancing social justice and stand in support of the players, coaches and staff as they exercise their First Amendment rights, and use their voices, their experiences, and their platforms to peacefully express themselves.”
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The NBA isn’t the first league to restart their season with players kneeling in support of the movement.
The WNBA, when the league began its season last week, dedicated the season to Breonna Taylor and the Say Her Name campaign. Outside of basketball, many MLB players also took a knee as their season resumed earlier this month.
All of these demonstrations come amid unrest in the US over the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, and mirror that of Colin Kaepernick during the 2016-17 NFL season.
The deaths have caused ongoing proteststhroughout the country,and resulted in calls for racial equality, social justice and police reform in the US, among other demands.