Rick Carlisle isn’t sure what to expect from players during the national anthem when the NBA season resumes in empty arenas in Florida.
Dallas coach Mavericks knows how he will react if players kneel or otherwise violate a long-standing championship policy that requires them to resist playing “The Star-Spangled Banner”.
“We support our players 100% in terms of their ability to express themselves individually or in groups if they wish,” said Carlisle. “I don’t know exactly how it will be in Orlando. There may be different forms of expression. But our country is a free country. “
The death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody in May raised new questions about sports on kneeling during the anthem and the gesture was seen from European football to North American car racing. Colin Kaepernick, a former San Francisco quarterback he started the latest movement in 2016, saying he was protesting against racial inequality and police mistreatment of minorities.
Ever since sports resumed after Floyd’s death, players have knelt around the world at professional and even youth sporting events. And NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league was wrong not to recognize the right of his players to protest peacefully, a move that perhaps sparked fresh criticism from President Donald Trump, who has long stood on his knees during the hymn.
There are no indications of leagues that skip the hymn despite empty places.
“It’s kind of a statement that we’re still here,” said Adrian Burgos Jr., a history professor at the University of Illinois who has studied minority issues in professional sports. “That’s how much the anthem became part of the spectator sports competition in the United States.”
On the eve of the July 4th holidays, here’s a summary of the major North American sports leagues and their approach to the national anthem – a long-standing fixture at the games.
NBA / WNBA
The policy that requires players to “stand and stand in a dignified posture” has been around 40 years. There were two cases during the 2016 singers preseason – both female, one white and one black – falling on one knee while performing the anthem. Both claimed they did it to draw attention to systemic racism.
The NBA is not only expected to expect, but will encourage players to make statements about the need for social change when the season restarts. Commissioner Adam Silver, speaking at a Time 100 event this week, suggested that the league isn’t sure what will happen if the players decide to kneel.
“We had a rule about our books dating back to the early 1980s, which also precedes David Stern’s mandate as a commissioner, which requires players to stand in line for attention during the national anthem,” said Silver. “I also understand the role of the protest and I think we will deal with that situation when it arises.”
The WNBA has the same policy, but the players have not been disciplined to kneel.
Since Kaepernick was the first to kneel during the anthem, the NFL has always been the epicenter of the debate. The league’s policy at the time was murky that players had to hold out. But there were vocal owners, such as Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys, who threatened the bench players if they didn’t resist.
In the end, the NFL opted for a policy whereby players and non-player staff should “remain on their feet”, offering players the option of remaining in the locker room during the anthem. In all of this, there have usually been at least a few players who have knelt down and never faced discipline.
The tide shifted suddenly after Floyd’s death, with several NFL stars who essentially dared the league to keep them from kneeling if there are games in 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic. Goodell replied quickly.
“We, the National Football League, admit that we were wrong not to listen to NFL players previously and encourage everyone to speak and protest peacefully,” Goodell said in a video in early June. “I personally protest with you and I want to be part of the much needed change in this country.”
Many players, including young quarterbacks from star Baker Mayfield in Cleveland and Kyler Murray in Arizona, have made it clear that they are kneeling. So could Houston coach Bill O’Brien and Carolina coach Matt Rhule as well.
Baseball guidelines have the flexibility to allow for personal choice and former Oakland catcher Bruce Maxwell was deemed the first in his sport to kneel during the anthem in 2017, not long after Trump criticized the players of the NFL.
While the NBA has stated that it will have multiple outlets for the expression of social causes by assuming that its season has resumed, MLB is considering similar possibilities with the 60-game season starting July 23.
Texas Rangers manager Chris Woodward said he and his players had several discussions in the wake of protests across the country over Floyd’s death.
“I felt it was very important for many of our people, especially minority players, to share their feelings with their teammates,” said Woodward. “I don’t know where we are as far as the hymn will sound. But I will support our team. I will support our players individually if they have personal beliefs that they feel they need to share. “
The NHL regulation does not address player behavior during national anthems to its games. Protests have been rare; Tampa Bay forward JT Brown raised his right fist during the anthem before the team’s first road game of the season in 2017.
The National Women’s Soccer League revised its anthem policy after most players knelt during the anthem before the season’s opening games last weekend at the Challenge Cup. The NWSL was the first league of sports teams to resume or start playing after the shutdown. Some players have been criticized for not kneeling, so the league will allow players to stay in the locker room during the anthem.
“The NWSL is behind every player, official and staff member,” said NWSL Commissioner Lisa Baird. “Kneel on the field. Stand with your hand on your heart. Honor your feelings in the privacy of the locker room or in midfield. “
The largest series of car racing in North America for years had a specific guide for its teams to stand, without a helmet and without a hat, with the right hands on the heart during the hymn. That language was removed less than a month ago while NASCAR does the math alone.
North America’s largest pro men’s soccer league has adopted a policy to support freedom of expression for players, and Commissioner Dan Garber sent a note to the league staff supporting him just three years ago when the debate over Kaepernick was raging.
AP basketball writer Tim Reynolds contributed to this Miami report.