As the NFL season wore on, the focus and fury over players kneeling for the National Anthem seemed to fade. The President’s short attention span kicked-in and he moved on to something else, the media attention moved on to the newest thing, and it became a relative non-story (and anyone with a brain that heard NFL ratings were down because of it knew better).
In the NBA, the protests were more muted — players locked arms on some teams (and still do) for the anthem. However, it would not have been the same story as the NFL — while some NFL fans booed those players, the vast majority of NBA fans would have nodded in agreement. Different demographics.
Kobe Bryant was asked about the protests — started by Colin Kaepernick in an effort to raise awareness of police brutality toward African-Americans — and told The Undefeated he would have been in.
“Yeah, I would have participated in it, for sure. I’m sure I would have gotten some flak for it. That’s fine. I think that Colin’s message was a very simple one. It was police brutality needs to stop; we need to take a look at that…
“From my experience in the locker room, it doesn’t seem like any of the players that I played with certainly would have had an issue with that. I think we understand this is a free country. I think we have the right to peaceful protest.”
The NBA and its players tried to focus more on actions in the community to make a change rather than statements during the anthem and on the court (the NBA does have a rule that players must stand for the anthem).
That said, if the protests would have been more dramatic as Kobe suggested it would not have had the same pushback as the NFL protests. Again, the NBA demographics are different — younger, more urban, more diverse — and they would have been far more likely to agree than boo (for a few teams in deep red states, maybe it’s a little different). If you think the league would have acted, remember that the Los Angeles Sparks repeatedly walked off the court as not to be on it during the anthem in the WNBA playoffs last season, and the league did nothing. It would have been the same.