NBA players protest racial injustice as league returns to action
New York: NBA teams bowed their heads and knelt during the playing of the US national anthem on Thursday as the league returned for the first time since the coronavirus halted play in March with two thrilling games.
Some players had messages like “Equality”, “Education Reform”, and “Say Their Names” on the back of their jerseys in place of their names.
Coaches and game officials joined players from Utah Jazz, New Orleans Pelicans, Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers in taking a knee to protest against racial injustice and police brutality in the first games in 140 days.
Black Lives Matter was also written on the courts at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in the Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando, where the NBA plans to finish its season with 22 teams inside a bio-secure bubble.
Athletes from around the world have united behind anti-racism protests sparked by the death of George Floyd, a Black man, in police custody in Minneapolis in May.
The NBA games are being played without fans due to coronavirus fears, but “virtual fans” appearing on LED screens wrapped around the court and a simulation of a crowd’s cheers and jeers could be heard.
The Lakers’ LeBron James, after hitting the game-winning shot in his team’s 103-101 win over the Clippers, said: “It’s an opportunity to use this platform to spread a lot of positivity and love throughout the whole world.”
He said while there has been progress in the fight against systemic racism, the key was to maintain the momentum. “We want to keep our foot on the gas,” he said.
“We’re dealing with a lot of racism, a lot of social injustice and a lot of police brutality, not only in my neighbourhood and not only with Black people, but with all people of colour.”