Says they may give a pregame ‘message of unity’ if they wish
(Daily Mail) – The National Basketball Association sent a memo late Friday to all 30 teams instructing players to stand for the US national anthem, and warning teams there should not be any exceptions.
The memo, from deputy commissioner Mark Tatum, said the league has the discretion to discipline players who violate a rule already on the books stating that they must stand for the anthem, broadcaster ESPN reported.
The memo tells teams that ‘the league office will determine how to deal with any possible instance in which a player, coach, or trainer does not stand for the anthem.’
It adds that individual teams ‘do not have the discretion to waive’ the rule.
In the memo, Tatum suggests that teams make an effort in their first home game to address the current political climate by having players and coaches give a pregame address to their fans.
‘This could include a message of unity and how the team is committed to bringing the community together this season,’ said the memo, a copy of which was obtained by ESPN.
Tatum’s memo comes 24 hours after commissioner Adam Silver said at the league’s board of governors meeting in New York that he expects players to stand for the national anthem.
Last season, NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the national anthem as a way of protesting racial injustice and police brutality in the United States.
Previously only a handful of players had been taking a knee during the anthem, but on Sunday – two days after President Donald Trump’s inflammatory comments directed at players – nearly 200 chose to make their point, including the Pittsburgh Steelers, all of whom remained in the locker room except for one player.
The president first denounced the symbolic gesture last Friday, telling a political rally in Alabama that any protesting player was a ‘son of a b***h’ who should be fired, and urged a boycott of NFL games.
‘On the anthem specifically, we have a rule that requires our players to stand for the anthem. It’s been a rule as long as I’ve been involved with the league, and my expectation is that our players will continue to stand for the anthem,’ Silver told a news conference after the NBA’s Board of Governors meetings.
‘Last year many of our teams locked arms during the anthem, which I felt was a respectful show of unity. Many of our players have spoken out already about their plan to stand for the anthem. And I think they understand how divisive an issue it is in our society right now.
‘It´s disheartening to me to see so much disunity in our society. I think that sports historically, and in the NBA in particular, has been a unifying force,’ said Silver.
‘While there´s always been disagreements in society, sports arenas have been places where people from all walks of life have come together and for a common experience.’
While Silver acknowledged that freedom of expression is a core principle of the United States he said that given the platform NBA players have, whether through engagement with the media or social media, that they have those opportunities for their voices to be heard.
Silver did not say what would happen if any NBA players refused to stand during the ‘Star-Spangled Banner,’ simply adding: ‘All I can say is if that were to happen, we´ll deal with it when it happens.’
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