Mike Ehrmann / Associated Press
LaBron James told reporters that he hoped the origin of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was proud after protests during the national anthem.
Mark Medina @MarkG_Medina
LeBron James knelt during the anthem to protest systemic racism: “I hope we felt Kaep proud.”; LeBron then explains his gratitude for the military https://t.co/FHYWyD06Hm
“Kap was someone who stood up when sometimes they weren’t comfortable,” said James (h / t Lauren A. Jones of the Los Angeles Sentinel). “When people didn’t understand … he had absolutely nothing to do with the flag, he explained it and people never heard it. I did. We just thanked him for sacrificing everything he did.”
Kaepernick knelt during the national anthem to protest systemic racism and police brutality during the 2016 NFL season.
As Rhiannon Walker (then of The Undefeated) pointed out in a grouping of responses to Kaepernick’s actions, the quarterback received praise, severe criticism and some mixed reactions to his work in the sports world.
Ultimately, Kaepernick found himself out of NFL work after the 2016 season despite his production on a mostly dying 49ers team (18 total touchdowns and only four interceptions in 11 games).
On Thursday, players, coaches and referees who participated in the Utah Jazz vs. New Orleans Pelicans and Los Angeles Lakers vs. The Los Angeles Clippers knelt during the anthem, with players wearing “Black Lives Matter” shirts.
The @utahjazz and @PelicansNBA knelt in solidarity when @JonBatiste performed the national anthem before the NBA Restart. https://t.co/dQeHSbUx87
Los Angeles Lakers @Lakers
United for a greater cause. #BlackLivesMatter https://t.co/dthLmon0a7
NBA players have continued to promote the fight for social justice for the rest of the season on the Walt Disney World league campus near Orlando, Florida, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which sparked a four-and-a-half-month suspension from the 2019-20 campaign starting March 11th.
James set out the league’s message in a postgame interview with NBA TV and NBA TNT reporter Jared Greenberg after his team’s 103-101 victory, which was led by his game-winning shot with 12.8 second remaining and subsequent stop defense at the other end:
NBA on TNT @NBAonTNT
“We want to keep putting our foot down … keep spreading love all over America.” @KingJames discusses the NBA reboot and social change with @JaredSGreenberg. https://t.co/HubuVKV03X
He also posted this Instagram chapter associated with a picture of him raising his fist as he knelt during the hymn on Thursday: “What is your purpose in life? Creating change, motivating and inspiring others are some of mine! I just hope you continue to be proud! I love you all! ❤️❤️❤️✊🏾✊🏾 #BlackLivesMatter #ThankYouKap #JusticeForBreonnaTaylor. 💔 “
Player messages have taken various forms, and some have reflected during postgame or post-practice press conferences.
Importantly, after Utah’s 104-102 victory over the Pels, jazz gunman Donovan Mitchell revealed a bulletproof vest listing people killed for police brutality:
Taylor Rooks @TaylorRooks
One statement: Donovan Mitchell has a bulletproof vest. The vest features the names of numerous people killed due to police brutality. Add the quote “Am I next?” https://t.co/wUp1QYYNQk
In addition, players from all four teams listed messages on the back of their t-shirt in support of social justice, with examples such as “Say Her Name,” “Equality” and “Black Lives Matter.”
The NBA rematch will continue Friday with six more games, starting with the Orlando Magic tilt with the Brooklyn Nets at 2:30 p.m. ET.