As expected, the first NBA games in more than four months featured pregame demonstrations from players in support of a nationwide protest movement against the excessive use of police force against Black people.
Every member of the Lakers, Clippers, Jazz and Pelicans on Thursday evening knelt for the national anthem, following the main template for athlete protests in the U.S. that began in the NFL with Colin Kaepernick in 2016.
Players on each team also donned messages on their jerseys supporting equality and societal improvements. Phrases included "Education Reform," "Say Their Names" and "Black Lives Matter." Utah's Donovan Mitchell also wore "Black Lives Matter" shoes.
Every player, coach and ref takes a knee during the national anthem before the Pelicans-Jazz game pic.twitter.com/LZy1A6s8VM— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) July 30, 2020
A closer look at some of the social justice messages on the players' jerseys tonight for the NBA restart. pic.twitter.com/MJEQoFo4Eu— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) July 30, 2020
Protests in the U.S. began in response to the May 25 killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police but have continued as part of a broader movement against systemic racism.
Athletes have spoken up more than ever in recent memory, using their platforms to become activists. The NBA on Thursday joined MLB, NASCAR and Formula 1 as sports to address the Black Lives Matter movement before a live event this year.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver has generally been supportive of players taking stances on social justice issues, at least during this tumultuous time.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver: “I respect our teams’ unified act of peaceful protest for social justice and under these unique circumstances will not enforce our long-standing rule requiring standing during the playing of our national anthem.”— Malika Andrews (@malika_andrews) July 30, 2020
Lakers vs. Clippers and Jazz vs. Pelicans marked the first of two games Thursday in the Orlando bubble to mark the NBA's return to action after the season was suspended March 11 because of the coronavirus pandemic.