LeBron James and his Los Angeles Lakers teammates, along with Los Angeles Clippers players, the Utah Jazz and New Orleans Pelicans, knelt during the national anthem Thursday to protest racial injustice and police brutality.
It was the first protest during the national anthem since Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf refused to stay on the “Star Banner” in the 1990s, when he played for the Denver Nuggets.
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On their knees, the players followed a precedent set by free agent NFL agent Colin Kaepernick, who started a fiery storm in 2016 when he sat down and knelt down during the national anthem.
James said after the game, “I hope we made Kap proud,”; according to USA Today.
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“Kapi was someone standing up when the weather was not comfortable,” James added, according to the Los Angeles Sentinel. “When people did not understand … there was nothing to do about the flag, he explained it and people never heard it. I did! We just thank the one who sacrificed everything he did.”
Players, coaches and referees break a long-standing rule that has existed in the NBA since the 1980s, requiring players to decide on the national anthem. NBA commissioner Adam Silver appeared to support the peaceful protest of the players. He made a statement after the Jazz and Pelicans protested before their game.
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“I respect the unified act of peaceful social justice protest and in these unique circumstances will not enforce our long-standing rule that requires us to stand while interpreting our national anthem,” Silver said, according to the New York Times.