LeBron James and his teammates from the Los Angeles Lakers, along with players from the Los Angeles Clippers, Utah Jazz and New Orleans Pelicans, knelt during the national anthem on Thursday to protest racial injustice and police brutality.
It was the first protest during the national anthem after Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf refused to run for the Star of the Flag in the 1990s when he played for the Denver Nuggets.
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In kneeling, players followed a precedent set by free agent NFL defender Colin Copernicus, who started a firestorm in 2016 when he sat and knelt during the national anthem.
James said after the game, “I hope to make Kap proud,”
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“Cap was someone who stood up when the weather wasn’t right,” James added, according to the Los Angeles Sentinel. “When people didn’t understand … it had absolutely nothing to do with the flag, he explained it and people never listened to it. I did! We just thank him for sacrificing everything he did. “
Players, coaches and referees violated a long-standing rule that has existed in the NBA since the 1980s by requiring players to run for the national anthem. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver appeared in support of the peaceful protest of the players. He made the statement after the jazz and pelicans protested before their game.
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“I respect the united act of peaceful protest of our social justice teams, and in these unique circumstances it will not impose our long-standing rule requiring us to stand while playing our national anthem,” Silver told The New York Times.