LeBron James and Anthony Davis linked arms near mid-court on Thursday night as the NBA re-joined the sporting calendar after the hiatus. Their Los Angeles Lakers teammates, the Los Angeles Clippers and the officials joined them in spanning the sideline to kneel while the national anthem played.
James said afterward he hoped that the demonstration made Colin Kaepernick proud four years after the former NFL quarterback first took a knee in 2016.
James: ‘I hope we made Kap proud’
James spoke about Kaepernick and his leadership in kneeling during the national anthem after the 103-101 win. It was the second game of the NBA’s restart on Thursday and all four teams took a knee during the anthem.
James told reporters:
“I hope we made Kap proud. I hope we continue to make Kap proud every single day. I hope I make him proud in how I live my life, not only on the basketball floor but off the floor. I’ve been one to always speak out about things that I feel like is unjust. If I’m uneducated on things, I always go about it that way.”
After seeing reports of long lines to vote in urban and minority areas of Atlanta last month, James founded More Than a Vote. It includes other entertainers and professional basketball players as they get out the word about voting rights and injustices. Last week, the organization announced it would donate to the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition to help ex-felons register to vote in the state.
James: ‘Ears were closed’ to Kap in 2016
James continued and said people refused to listen to Kaepernick in 2016, but are listening now.
“Kap is someone who stood up when the times wasn’t comfortable, when people didn’t understand, people refused to listen to what he was saying. If you go back and look at any of his postgame interviews when he was talking about why he was kneeling it had absolutely nothing to do about the flag. It had absolutely nothing to do about the soldiers, the men and women that keep our land free. He explained that and the ears were closed. People never listened. They refused to listen. And I did. And a lot of my people, the Black community did listen, and we just thank him for sacrificing everything that he did to put us in the position today, years later, to be able to have that moment like we did tonight.”
James, a three-time NBA champion, has long voiced his support of Kaepernick and is vocal on social media about social justice causes. He called out New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees for insinuating that kneeling during the anthem was about patriotism. Brees, who was also criticized by a long list of fellow athletes, apologized multiple times for the comments.
Kneeling during anthem commonplace
Support of kneeling during the anthem has shifted in the four years since cameras first caught Kaepernick doing on the San Francisco 49ers sideline doing it. When a handful of professional athletes joined him in their respective sports for demonstrations, they were blackballed or fined. It created an atmosphere where others were fearful of doing so.
Now, entire leagues are showing support for the cause and solidarity with Black Lives Matter. Teams and players in the NBA, MLB, MLS and NWSL are taking a knee during the anthem and unifying for the message. WNBA players have taken it a step further and are leaving the court at their bubble site in Bradenton, Florida, before the anthem plays.
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