"We are in this together."
Saturday night [September 30], two matches took place as the NBA preseason got underway. While the Golden State Warriors took a loss to the Denver Nuggets, the newest era of the Los Angeles Lakers faced off against the Minnesota Timberwolves, ultimately succumbing to a score of 108-99 in favor of the Wolves.
While the exhibitions played their part in giving fans a preview of the season, the actions displayed by all four teams ahead of the games may have given us all a peak into the routine that teams will adopt this season ahead of games. On the heels of the controversy that came with President Donald Trump’s condemnation of professional athletes who kneel during the National Anthem, referring to NFL players who do so as “sons of bitches” who should be fired, all four teams stood in solidarity locking arms during "The Star-Spangled Banner" as a means of their own protest and display of unity.
"By locking arms, I feel like we are showing that there are issues in this country and it is a chance for us to raise awareness and still make it a talking point,” said Lakers head coach Luke Walton. “If you do nothing, then it kind of goes away and if it goes away, then nothing changes.”
The decision to lock arms came after the leage sent out a memo, reminding teams of a mandate that requires all players to stand during the national anthem in a line and in a “dignified position” no matter what. While Saturday’s events didn’t veer much from the response most of us expected from league players, other teams’ athletes have pointed toward the possibility of going against the memo that did not specify the consequence for kneeling during the national anthem.
When questioned on what they planned to do suring their season opener, members of the New York Knicks expressed that they actually didn’t know, leaving room for the possibility of defying NBA leadership.
"Whatever we do, we’re gonna do it as a team,” forward Lance Thomas said. “I’m gonna speak to my teammates and see what we come up with.”
Earlier on Sunday afternoon [October 1] the Cleveland Cavaliers' JR Smith quoted a headline referring to the NBA’s memo with a tweet reading, “Yea Ight,” leading many to speculate what may come of the Cavaliers’ opener on Wednesday [October 4th] against the Atlanta Hawks.
Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see how the NBA handles the situation should it arise. Following Trump’s controversial remarks, protests across the NFL took place last Sunday [September 24] with players kneeling and team owners speaking out against Trump’s words. However, this perceived sense of unity between players and league leadership may not have been all it was cracked up to be after all with Demaurice Smith, Executive Director of the National Football League Players Association, revealing that Commissioner Roger Goodell actually wanted the protests to be called off despite his issuing of a statement in support of players’ right to kneel or stand.
"My only response was, 'I don't have the power to tell our players what to do.' ... At the end of the day, this is a group of players who are exercising their freedom. There is no room for me to snap my fingers and tell our players, 'It's time for you to give up a freedom,'" said Smith. "Just the idea offends me. It's almost as if the players are being asked, 'What's it going to take for you to stop asking to be free or to be treated like an American?'"