NBA commissioner Adam Silver would have heaved a sigh of relief after the new season got off in Cleveland on Tuesday without any protest.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver would have heaved a sigh of relief after the new season got off in Cleveland on Tuesday without any protest. The US national anthem, which is sung before every match in all major leagues here, is being increasingly used to make a statement. A couple of players knelt in pre-season games to voice their anger at police brutalities against African-Americans.
American football star Colin Kaepernick, a vocal critic of racial injustice and high-handed police action, started a revolution of sorts by his refusal to stand up for the national anthem since his team’s third pre-season game on August 26. Many people are emulating him across sports while some have criticised the quarterback of San Francisco 49ers for “disrespecting” the flag.
Kaepernick, who was born to a white mother and a black father, has no plans to halt his protest any time soon. “I’m not going to stand up to show pride in the flag of a country that oppresses black people and people of colour. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies on the street and people are getting paid leave and getting away with murder,” he told reporters recently.
The NBA has a rule calling for players and coaches to stand during the national anthem but the American Football League doesn’t.
Top basketball stars including LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Dwayne Wade don’t mince words when it comes to their opinion about issues. James keeps reminding people about the tough life that confronts young African-Americans in his native Akron.
Anthony has praised Kaepernick’s protest while highlighting the need for action in communities that are suffering at the hands of police. The Knicks star has said that police action in recent years reminded him of the 60s when inter-racial relationship was at its nadir in the USA.
Along with Wade, Kyle Korver and Chris Paul, Anthony released a video on the official NBA website on the opening day of the season, calling for unity across the country with an explicit reference to the #blacklivesmatter movement. The video features uniformed white police officers playing street basketball with children.
The US has a proud lineage of outspoken athletes, starting from heavyweight champion Jack Johnson in the early 20th century. Muhammad Ali was, of course, the doyen in the group. The Black Power salute of Tommy Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Olympics was a seminal moment in the history of American sports.
Although the two sprinters paid dearly for their actions, they never regretted their decision to highlight racial inequalities in America. The articulate Kaepernick is the latest torchbearer.