The NBA — and its fan base — are the most politically progressive of all the major American sports, as Seerat Sohi laid out so well. When the NBA pulled the 2017 All-Star Game out of Charlotte, the move played well with most of the league’s core fans.
As an extension of that, when NBA preseason games start up in a few weeks you can expect multiple NBA players to kneel during the national anthem, continuing the protest that the 49ers Collin Kaepernick started.
Stephen Curry, arguably the NBA’s biggest star, likely will not be part of that, he said at a tech event Tuesday, as reported by the San Jose Mercury News.
“I’ll most likely stand,” Curry said. “Colin, if you follow the way he talks, the message he’s trying to send with his act, he’s not, from his mouth, disrespecting the veterans or the military. That’s not his intention. He’s obviously continued the act to create the conversation for more social justice and things of that nature. I’ve been a part of certain conversations off the grid, finding different ways to make our community better, especially for African-Americans. That’s not the way I’ll do it. But I support him in his attempt to start the conversation or continue the conversation.”
This echoes what Curry had said recently, that Kaepernick had the right to protest and that he thought his message was important. But that is different from kneeling during the anthem and joining in.
You can be sure the suits in the league office — all the way up to Commissioner Adam Silver — and team executives have already had conversations about what to do when this happens in the NBA. And the answer will be to stay out of it. This is going to play out very differently than the David Stern response to Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf — and that’s a sign that the league itself is growing up. And understands its core audience.