Earlier this month, the NBA returned to finish the 2019-2020 season. Things were, unsurprisingly, different. After all, players, coaches, and everyone else involved in the league had to be screened, tested, and quarantined at Walt Disney World (where the teams would be playing out the season) prior to the restart of the season. Everyone in this “bubble” would be continuously screened and tested for COVID-19 throughout the remainder of the season and those in the bubble would remain quarantined until the season was over. What was perhaps unplanned, however, was how teams started each game. Instead of standing while the national anthem was played, many players, coaches, and staff decided to kneel. Why?
In 2016, former NFL quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers Colin Kaepernick sat on a bench while the national anthem was being played during a preseason game. When asked why, Kaepernick said that he was giving a voice to the voiceless and using his celebrity status to draw attention to the police brutality and racism that he was witnessing around the country. While sitting (and later kneeling) became hugely controversial, fellow athletes soon followed Kaepernick’s lead. The act of kneeling during the national anthem became a symbol of defiance to some and an act of protest against injustice and the support for change to others. Professional athletes were fined and some believe that Kaepernick was never signed onto another team because of his actions. Earlier this year, an African-American man named George Floyd was killed by a policeman while in police custody. Protests erupted around the country calling for racial justice, police reform, and change in the way Black communities are treated. Protests have continued in parts of the country. To show their support of these protests, teammates and coaches linked arms and kneeled while the national anthem played at the start of the games. While the NBA commissioner has supported this act, President Trump has been vocal about how he thinks this action is a sign of disrespect.
What do you think? Is kneeling an act of disrespect and defiance or a peaceful way to protest? Why? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your thoughts!