After a four-month suspension from the coronavirus, the NBA has restarted its season with a powerful message against racism by its players and coaches, who knelt during the American anthem in the opening two games.
In an unusual protest in the NBA, and prohibited in its regulations, stars such as LeBron James (Los Angeles Lakers) and Kahwi Leonard (Los Angeles Clippers) formed a single row in which colleagues and rivals mixed.
In unison, they all dropped to one knee on the court when the pre-match anthem began to play, with some players bowing their heads in excitement, others intertwining their arms, and some, like LeBron, briefly raising a fist to the air and pointing to the sky.
Two tight wins by the Lakers over the Clippers (103-101) and the Utah Jazz against the New Orleans Pelicans (106-104) put the most uncertain season in the NBA back on track, with 22 teams sheltered from the pandemic. in the so-called ‘bubble’ of Disney World (Orlando).
Ruy Gobert, beginning and end
The first and last points of the inaugural clash were converted by French Utah jazz center Rudy Gobert, whose contagion of coronavirus forced the season’s abrupt suspension on March 11.
“After all that I personally, and everyone else, has experienced, being able to continue to inspire millions of children around the world is a blessing,” said Gobert.
Subsequently, LeBron James (16 points and 11 rebounds) led a win with which the Lakers placed a 2-2 draw in this season’s head-to-head clashes against the Clippers, one of their great rivals for the ring.
As part of their day of protest, the players wore black jerseys with the slogan “Black Lives Matter”, which is also engraved in the center of the three courts of the Disney World sports complex where will play behind closed doors until the end of October.
Speaker against racism
The league and players pledged to make this season finale, despite the isolation conditions at Disney World, a loudspeaker for the ongoing crime-fueled protests of African-American George Floyd by a white cop two months ago.
“We understand what is happening in society right now and we are using this NBA platform as players, as coaches and as an organization to maintain a strong stance,” said ‘King’ James.
“We are dealing with a lot of racism, a lot of social injustice and police brutality,” he stressed. «This is a good start (…) But we cannot stop. We will keep our foot on the gas as we have for the past two months. “
Although NBA rules have required players to remain on their feet during the anthem since the early 1980s, Commissioner Adam Silver said that “under these unique circumstances,” the league will not act against teams.
“I respect the unified act of peaceful protest by our teams for social justice,” said Silver, who was present at the Los Angeles duel.
The gesture of kneeling down has become one of the symbols of the massive demonstrations for racial equality and the end of police brutality that have taken place in the United States and other countries in recent months.
This type of protest was popularized in 2016 by the American football player Colin Kaepernick, who was at the time subject to harsh criticism, including from President Donald Trump, and was never hired by any NFL team again.
Among other actions, the players also took to the track by changing their shirt names to messages like ‘Equality’ or ‘Justice Now’.
Jazz star Donovan Mitchell showed a bulletproof vest to the press with numerous names of people who died at the hands of the police.
“We are tired of being afraid … It doesn’t matter how much money you have or if you are famous. As an African-American man, that’s what you are, ”said the 23-year-old guard.
Subsequently, Mitchell again claimed on Twitter the arrest of the police officers who killed Breonna Taylor in March, a nurse who was shot by agents who broke into her apartment as part of a request to capture a suspect who was already detained.
Numerous NBA players have dedicated their press appearances in the Orlando, Florida “bubble” to demanding these arrests.
With daily coronavirus testing and countless restrictions, the NBA has created a security environment to protect players from the pandemic, which has claimed the lives of more than 150,000 lives in the United States and is expanding in Florida.
The courts have also been adapted to prevent risks. The bench seats have been spaced farther apart, and while not required, some people wore face masks during the game, such as Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry, one of the league’s oldest veterans at 65.