LeBron James and his Los Angeles Lakers teammates, along with players from the Los Angeles Clippers, Utah Jazz and New Orleans Pelicans, knelt during the national anthem Thursday to protest racial injustice and police brutality.
It was the first protest during the national anthem as Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf refused to appear on “The Star-Spangled Banner” in the 1990s, when he played for the Denver Nuggets.
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Kneeling, the players followed a precedent set by free agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who started a firestorm in 2016 when he sat down and knelt during the national anthem.
James said after the game, “I hope we̵7;re proud of Kap,” according to USA Today.
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“Kap was someone who stood up when sometimes they weren’t comfortable,” James added, according to the Los Angeles Sentinel. “When people didn’t understand … it had absolutely nothing to do with the flag, he explained it and people never heard it. I did it! We just thank him for sacrificing everything he did.”
Players, coaches, and referees broke the rule that has been in effect in the NBA since the 1980s, requiring players to bet on the national anthem. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver backed the players ’peaceful protest. He testified after the Jazz and Pelicans protest before his departure.
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“I respect the unitary act of peaceful protest of our teams for social justice and, in these unique circumstances, will not apply our long-standing rule that requires the erection of our national anthem,” Silver said, according to The New York Times.