NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said he expects players to stand during the U.S. national anthem rendition, rather than follow the lead of NFL players who have been protesting in one form or another.
Silver spoke after the NBA’s Board of Governors meetings, during which owners passed rules designed to prevent healthy players from sitting out games, and teams from losing games on purpose to improve their draft position.
Recently, kneeling during the anthem has become a norm in the NFL, a gesture intended to call attention to what protesting players see as a pattern of racism in the treatment of African-Americans by U.S. police.
The NBA boss does not expect such gestures when the 2017/2018 NBA season begins next month.
“On the anthem specifically, we have a rule that requires our players to stand for the anthem. It’s been a rule as long as I’ve been involved with the league, and my expectation is that our players will continue to stand for the anthem.”
“Last year many of our teams locked arms during the anthem, which I felt was a respectful show of unity. Many of our players have spoken out already about their plan to stand for the anthem. And I think they understand how divisive an issue it is in our society right now.”
The protest was initiated last season by then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and has since caught the attention of U.S. President Donald Trump, who last week called for NFL owners to fire those who refuse to stand.
“It’s disheartening to me to see so much disunity in our society. I think that sports historically, and in the NBA in particular, has been a unifying force,” said Silver.
“While there’s always been disagreements in society, sports arenas have been places where people from all walks of life have come together and for a common experience.”
Silver did not say what would happen if any NBA player refused to stand during the anthem.