LeBron James and his Los Angeles Lakers teammates, along with Los Angeles Clippers, Utah Jazz and New Orleans Pelicans players, knelt during the national anthem Thursday to protest racial injustice and police brutality.
It was the first protest during the national anthem since Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf refused to stand for “The Star-Spangled Banner” in the 1990s, when he played for the Denver Nuggets.
In kneeling, the players followed a precedent set by free agent NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who started a firestorm in 2016 when he sat and knelt during the national anthem.
James said after the game, “I hope we made Kap proud,” according to USA Today.
“Kap was someone who stood up when times weren’t comfortable,” James added, according to the Los Angeles Sentinel. “When people didn’t understand…it had absolutely nothing to do about the flag he explained that and people never listened. I did! We just thank him for sacrificing everything that he did.”
The players, coaches and referees broke a long-standing rule that has been in place in the NBA since the 1980s, requiring players to stand for the national anthem. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver appeared to support players’ peaceful protest. He made a statement after the Jazz and Pelicans’ protest before their game.
“I respect our teams’ unified act of peaceful protest for social justice and under these unique circumstances will not enforce our long-standing rule requiring standing during the playing of our national anthem,” Silver said, according to The New York Times.