The NBA has long taken a hard stance on the national anthem.
Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf was infamously suspended for sitting during the national anthem 1996. The league has a specific rule – which it doesn’t plan to change – that states, “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.”
That makes it more difficult for the NBA and union to compromise on national-anthem protests – especially because precedent has set a strict tone on the rule.
Kings forward Matt Barnes on The Vertical Podcast with JJ Redick:
They don’t want you chewing gum. They told me, take the gum out of your mouth.
I was using the bathroom. They said you can’t miss the anthem. I’m like, “Man, I had to pee.” “Next time you’ll be fined.” I said, “Ohh, OK.”
I doubt NBA commissioner Adam Silver wants to punish players for demonstrating on behalf of important social issues. But he’s also behold to the team owners and corporate sponsors, and he must enforce the league’s rules.
It’s a fine line, one that the NBA’s prior warnings on national-anthem conduction make even more difficult for Silver to walk.
Maybe the solution is raised fists? Kneeling, like Colin Kaepernick, would seem to violate the “stand” requirement. But if players are on their feet and in place, would the league really deem a raised fist an undignified posture?