NBA’s national-anthem demonstrations fall short of Colin Kaepernick’s meaningful protest

Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP
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NBA teams are locking arms during the national anthem, believing they’re continuing the legacy of Civil Rights marchers in the 1960s and Colin Kaepernick today.

They are not.

Civil Rights marchers and Kaepernick took courageous stands against racism. NBA teams have so far responded with a demonstration too inoffensive to work.

Kaepernick found a nearly perfect protest method. He remained peaceful, drew attention and then advanced the discussion of police violence against blacks. By sitting then kneeling during the national anthem, Kaepernick shocked the senses of the viewing public. Though many have overly focused on his method of protest, they still wanted to hear his justification for such a “radical” demonstration.

But take a step back and consider whether Kaepernick’s display is truly outrageous. What’s a bigger affront to American values, someone sitting for a song or the country not providing full rights and protection under the law to its black citizens? Though not everyone has thoughtfully considered Kaepernick’s point, many have been forced to confront that question.

At best, NBA teams have distracted from Kaepernick’s message. At worst, they’ve undermined it.

Not every NBA team is locking arms for the exact same reason, but the buzz word has been “unity.”

Unity, of course, would be fantastic. But it’s such a vague goal, it allows people to ignore real problems.

Many will say they’re for unity. Are they willing to speak out against police killing people who are disproportionately black? Are they willing to speak out against a criminal-justice system that is more likely to treat blacks more harshly at every step than their white counterparts in similar situations? Are they willing to speak out against housing discrimination that has left black people disproportionately in poorer, less safe neighborhoods with worse schools?

That’s the unity we need – everyone standing together against specific injustices.

What NBA players are doing is the equivalent of someone responding to #BlackLivesMatter with #AllLivesMatter.

Well, yeah. Of course, all lives matter. But people who respond to #BlackLivesMatter with #AllLivesMatter are nearly always just trying to change the subject. Rather than listen to genuine concerns from #BlackLivesMatter, #AllLivesMatter takes exception to the initial phrase. When it’s time to discuss whether a life mattered after the latest incident of police killing an unarmed black man, #AllLivesMatter is nowhere to be found.

There’s a real ignorance to the problems black people face in this country. Kaepernick is bringing attention to them. NBA teams are allowing people to ignore the specific issues and focus on a feel-good message of “unity” (and providing an excuse to hammer Kaepernick for not protesting more “respectably”).

Messages of unity too often lead to blaming those who recognize the divide, not those who perpetuate the divide.

I believe NBA players have their hearts in the right place, and many have shown they care through meaningful community work. That matters a great deal and shouldn’t be ignored. Neither should the fact that these are professional basketball players who have no obligation to take political stands.

But once they decided to demonstrate during the anthem, players are trying too hard to unite with their teammates who may hold differing views and conform to the NBA’s anthem rule that requires standing in a dignified posture. If you design a protest to appease your coworkers and bosses, you’re probably going about it the wrong way.

Not only is the message too milquetoast, so is the gesture fronting it.

If NBA teams locked arms during the anthem two months ago – before Kaepernick protested – nobody would have noticed or cared. It certainly would not have been perceived as a protest, let alone one on racial issues.

The Celtics best exemplify why NBA teams are falling flat in their anthem protests. They modeled their anthem posture after the 1960-61 team, which posed for a photo with black and white players crossing arms and holding hands:

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But 2016 is not 1960.

In 1960, Jim Crow still ruled the South. College teams across the region remained all-white. The Redskins, playing in our nation’s capital, hadn’t even integrated.

Black and white Celtics holding hands was itself an act of defiance. So was Civil Rights marchers locking arms in the South. Many Americans opposed integration and blacks’ right to peacefully assemble.

Black and whites teammates holding hands does not carry the same weight in 2016. All major sports leagues, pro and college, are integrated. When it comes to blacks and whites playing basketball together, there isn’t another side to demonstrate against.

While Kaepernick kneeling signals a clear protest, you could go to a Celtics game and have no idea the team is protesting – let alone ever bothering to find out what they’re protesting.

And what are they protesting? This team-posted video provides little real information:

There’s a lot more of that around the league, players speaking in overly vague terms about their anthem protests.

Raptors forward Jared Sullinger provided, by far, the strongest statement I could find from from an arm-locking player:

“We felt great (about the protest) because at the end of the day we know what is right from right and what is wrong from wrong,” Sullinger said. “And what is going on in the United States is wrong. I just hate how it is going. I just wish people would wake up and open their eyes and understand that minorities are getting picked on. It’s obvious.

“We are not progressing,” Sullinger said. “We are regressing. As time goes by all those long fights that all these people, who sacrificed their lives for, it’s almost like making a mockery of it. At the end of the day, we can make a change. I’m talking from my nephew who is 13 years old to my dad who is 67 years old. We all can make a change some way. Every gesture matters.”

Does every Raptor player and coach who locked arms agree that minorities are getting picked on, that racism is worsening? That’d be a heck of a lot of unity – a meaningful amount. If so, I’d like to hear every other team member speak to it.

Right now, NBA teams aren’t saying much.

Wembanyama encore: 36 points, 11 rebounds, 4 blocks against Ignite

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Victor Wembanyama is for real.

And I don’t mean real tall, although he is that, too. Check out this image of him next to Rudy Gobert, who is a legit 7’1″.

Wembanyama is for real like a genuine generational talent — in his second game against the G-League Ignite he had 36 points, 11 rebounds, and four blocked shots.

That comes off his 37-point performance in the first meeting where he hit 7-of-11 3-pointers and had five blocks.

To be clear: That is 73 points, 15 rebounds, nine blocks, shooting 9-of-18 from 3 (and 22-of-44 overall) across two games against a good talent level. And he is 18 years old.

Everyone in and around the NBA has been trying to come up with player comps — Kristaps Porzingis, Ralph Sampson, Tim Duncan — but the reality is Wembanyama is one of one.

Scoot Henderson — the G-League guard projected as the No. 2 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft — played just five minutes in this game after bumping his knee while guarding Wembanyama. He was taken out of the game and X-rays found a bone bruise, he did not return. He is officially day-to-day the team announced.

Wembanyama and his Metropolitans 92 got the win in this rematch, 112-106.

Draymond Green not expected to miss any games, Warriors to handle discipline ‘internally’

2022 NBA Summer League - Golden State Warriors v New York Knicks
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Draymond Green is not expected to miss any games for punching teammate Jordan Poole during an altercation during practice, Warriors GM Bob Myers said Thursday.

That’s not to say he is escaping any punishment, it will just be handled internally, Myers said.

Green showed up at Chase Center and apologized to the team and then left, he did not practice with the Warriors, reports Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area.

“Draymond apologized to the team this morning, Jordan was there in the room, I was there in room with the team, the coaches, the players and we heard that,” Myers said.

Whatever punishment the Warriors are handing down to Green, it will not include missing games, Myers said.

Coach Steve Kerr added, “I expect [Green] to return on Saturday and get back at it.” That implies a couple of days suspension, likely with a hefty fine.

Kerr was also quick to shoot down the rumors of Poole having an “attitude” around camp as he comes up on a massive contract extension. Stephen Curry echoed that, saying those reports are “absolute BS.”

The Warriors have seen their fair share of Draymond Green incidents over the years, and as a locker room and franchise they know how to move on from it. While this made headlines, the Warriors will shrug it off and move on.

Miami, Milwaukee have their eyes on Jae Crowder

NBA 2022 Playoffs - Phoenix Suns v Dallas Mavericks
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The Heat and Bucks don’t just have interest in the same player. They’re looking to replace the same player.

Two years ago, P.J. Tucker helped Milwaukee win their first championship in a half-century. Last season, he helped Miami lock up the top seed in the East and make the Conference Finals.

With Tucker in Philadelphia, both the Heat and Bucks are looking to fill the void with a different lockdown enforcer that can stretch the floor.

Jae Crowder and the Suns agreed that he won’t participate in practice as the team looks to accommodate his trade request. In a recent ESPN+ article, Zach Lowe made it clear that both Miami and Milwaukee are interested in pursuing a trade for Crowder.

“The Bucks have internal interest in Crowder as that Tucker replacement after getting into the recent Jerami Grant and Bojan Bogdanovic discussions, sources say. They will search all season for one more piece.

“The Heat have interest in Crowder too, sources say, but finding matching salary is tough until Dewayne Dedmon, Caleb Martin and Victor Oladipo become trade-eligible in the winter. Martin might start, and the Heat are optimistic Oladipo can play a huge role.”

Grant and Bogdanovic were traded to Portland and Detroit, respectively. The Heat may struggle to find a trade that works since Phoenix probably won’t want to take on Duncan Robinson’s contract. Dedmon, Martin and Oladipo will become trade eligible on January 15th.

Crowder has a history with the Heat, as he helped them make the NBA Finals in the bubble. He helped Phoenix make the NBA Finals two seasons ago and then helped them finish with the best record in the NBA last season.

LeBron says Wembanyama is an ‘alien’ and a ‘generational talent’

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There was a time when LeBron James was the “it” kid coming for the NBA — a freakish athlete like nobody in the league had seen. A player the size of Karl Malone with the quickness and skills of an elite point guard.

Now the “it” guy is Victor Wembanyama, the 7’4″ mold-breaking big out of France — and LeBron is impressed.

“Everybody’s been a unicorn over the last few years, well he’s more like an alien,” LeBron said after the Lakers’ preseason loss to the Suns in Las Vegas. “I’ve never seen, no one’s ever seen anyone as tall as he is, but it’s fluid and as graceful as on the floor…

“His ability to put the ball on the floor, shoot step-back jumpers on the post, step-back 3s, catch-and-shoot 3s, block shots. He’s for sure a generational talent. And hopefully he continues to stay healthy, that’s the most important for him personally, and as you could tell he loves the game. He was smiling a lot while playing the game last night. I think it was the two best players in the draft on the floor last night and they both did their thing.”

Wembanyama is projected to be the No.1 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, just ahead of point guard Scoot Henerson, who scored 28 points with nine assists of his own leading his G-League Ignite to a win over Wembanyama’s Metropolitans 92. Wembanyama scored 37 points in the game, hit 7-of-11 shots from 3, had five blocks and a few other shots changed because of his length (7’11” wingspan) and the threat of his block.

Wembanyama and Henderson face off again tonight in a second game between the Ignite and Metropolitans 92 just outside Las Vegas in Henderson (9:30 p.m. ET on NBATV).

Wembanyama will play, with his agent telling ESPN there are no plans to shut the No.1 pick down to avoid injury and protect his draft status. “He’ll never agree to that. He wants to compete and get better,” Bouna Ndiaye said.

LeBron looked back on his time as the “it” player and said simply, “thank got there wasn’t social media” at the time. It’s a different world now, but game still recognizes game.

And LeBron recognizes it in Wembanyama.