Thunder players all kneel during anthem after threat from Oklahoma lawmaker

Oklahoma City Thunder players did not heed a lawmaker’s threat about kneeling during the national anthem.

All the Thunder players knelt on Saturday alongside Utah Jazz players during their NBA bubble debut.

The social justice protest arrived a day after an Oklahoma state lawmaker attempted to pressure Thunder players to his will.

Rep. Sean Roberts (R-Hominy) issued a warning to the Thunder on Friday threatening to pull tax breaks for the team if players kneel during the national anthem while citing conspiracy theories about “Marxism.”

Since bubble play started Thursday, players have largely knelt during the national anthem to protest police brutality and racial injustice.

Roberts floats ‘significant tax benefits’

“If the Oklahoma City Thunder leadership and players follow the current trend of the NBA by kneeling during the national anthem prior to Saturday’s game, perhaps we need to reexamine the significant tax benefits the State of Oklahoma granted the Oklahoma City Thunder organization when they came to Oklahoma,” Roberts wrote in a statement.

Oklahoma News 4 reached out to the Thunder for a response to Roberts’ threat. As of Friday evening, the Thunder had not responded.

Thunder players kneel before Saturday's game against the Jazz. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis, Pool)
Thunder players kneel before Saturday's game against the Jazz. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis, Pool)

Thunder guard Chris Paul is the president of the National Basketball Players Association. He helped negotiate a deal with the NBA to allow players to wear social justice messaging on their uniforms during bubble play.

It was a long shot that Paul or any other Thunder players wouldn’t take a knee. Miami Heat forward Meyers Leonard and Orlando Magic forward Jonathan Isaac were the only players to decline to take a knee in the bubble through Saturday afternoon. San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich and assistant Becky Hammon also declined to take a knee on Friday.

Players have made a point to use their platforms to explain that as Black men, they fear for their lives and safety in the United States because of their skin color. Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell carried a bulletproof vest emblazoned with a list of victims of police brutality to his news conference Thursday night to make his point.

The NBA has a rule on its books requiring players to stand for the anthem. Commissioner Adam Silver vowed on Thursday not to enforce it “under these unique circumstances.”

Roberts: Kneeling will destroy families

Roberts believes the demonstration intends to destroy nuclear families.

“By kneeling during the playing of the national anthem, the NBA and its players are showing disrespect to the American flag and all it stands for,” Roberts wrote. “This anti-patriotic act makes clear the NBA’s support of the Black Lives Matter group and its goal of defunding our nation’s police, its ties to Marxism and its efforts to destroy nuclear families.”

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