The NBA and union are discussing how to handle expected national-anthem protests, a movement started by 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the Star Spangled Banner in objection to police brutality against blacks.
Unlike the NFL, the NBA has an explicit rule for the anthem: “Players, coaches and trainers are to stand and line up in a dignified posture along the sidelines or on the foul line during the playing of the National Anthem.”
The league is not currently planning to change the rule, sources said.
Instead, the league and union seem to be pitching a much more placid approach. Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated:
Everything in that memo is great. Players can use their platform to call forums and mentor. Basketball brings people together.
But the uncomfortable truth is kneeling during the anthem has brought more attention to the real issue – mistreatment of blacks in America – than anything else Kaepernick could’ve done. It might just take offending sensibilities to get people’s attention, but once Kaepernick had the spotlight, he delivered a powerful message.
NBA players can do the same, even if it requires breaking the rule.
The question remains whether the league will change how it punishes violators of the rule. Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf was suspended in 1996 for refusing to stand for the anthem. Would NBA commissioner Adam Silver enact the same penalty now? Just because the rule remains on the books doesn’t mean it requires the same enforcement, because no consequence for violating it is explicitly stated.