The players of the National Basketball Association (NBA) protested against racial injustice and police brutality by bowing their heads and kneeling during the national anthem of the United States in the first games following restart of action. The league was suspended in March due to the coronavirus pandemic. Players also wore t-shirts with the words ‘Black Lives Matter’ on them in the pre-game warm ups.
Games are being held in empty arenas, but, taking a cue from European football leagues, the NBA also put up LED displays with fans faces projected on to them. The broadcast also includes simulated crowd noise.
Aside from the players, the courts also had the words Black Lives Matter displayed on them at the ESPN Wide World of Sport Complex in Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando. The league will conclude its season at the venue, with players housed in a bio-secure environment.
Also Read | The Walk: An Olympian, a Worker and a Home Yet to be Defined
"The game of basketball has always been bigger than just the ball, the rim, 10 guys on the floor and referees," LeBron James said after scoring the game winner in the Lakers’ 103-101 win over the LA Clippers. "It's an opportunity to use this platform to spread a lot of positivity and love throughout the whole world."
Acknowledging that there has been some progress in battling systemic racism, James still highlighted the importance of sustaining momentum.
"We want to keep our foot on the gas," he said. "We're dealing with a lot of racism, a lot of social injustice and a lot of police brutality, not only in my neighborhood and not only with Black people, but with all people of color."
Also Read | No More Than a Billboard: Mohun Bagan’s Myopia Encapsulates New India
Many players and teams also chose to display messages in the back of jerseys rather than player names. The messages were along the lines of ‘Equality, ‘Education Reform’ and in one case ‘Say Their Names’, highlighting victims of police brutality in the country. .
Four years after Colin Kaepernick first knelt in an NFL game to spread awareness about racial injustice and police brutality, the NBA has followed suit. It has been late in coming, especially when you consider that NBA player supported Kaepernick’s protest because of league policies at the time. The sudden shift in mood has forced the league and teams themselves to reevaluate their priorities regarding the protests.
Read more sports stories from Newsclick