The NFL — a conservative league with a relatively conservative fan base (compared to the other major American sports) — is struggling with players expressing their social conscious by sitting or kneeling during the national anthem. It has become a massive discussion point, pissing off a lot of fans, for a league trying to get fans to focus on the kick-off of the new season.
The NBA and players union are taking a different approach.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, and the executive director of the players’ union Michelle Roberts, sent out a letter to players telling them to stick up for themselves, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver and National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts co-signed a preseason letter to the league’s players encouraging them in the pursuit of social consciousness.
In the letter, obtained by ESPN, Silver and Roberts told the players, “None of us operates in a vacuum. Critical issues that affect our society also impact you directly. Fortunately, you are not only the world’s greatest basketball players — you have real power to make a difference in the world, and we want you know that the Players Association and the League are always available to help you figure out the most meaningful way to make that difference.”
The letter also suggests working to improve the communities where they work and live, and to get involved with things such as Hurricane Harvey relief efforts.
The NBA has a rule that players have to stand for the national anthem, which is why teams locked arms a year ago. How the league would handle kneeling remains to be seen.
However, the NBA’s core demographic is younger, more diverse, and more urban than those of the other major American sports. NBA fans are more likely to nod in agreement with the protests than complain about them. It allows the NBA to do things like this letter, encouraging them to step forward.
It’s fantastic that Silver and Roberts sent this out, but what we need to see is this be put into action by players willing to take a stand.