Zion Williamson, Donovan Mitchell join Pelicans, Jazz in kneeling for national anthem at NBA restart
Minutes before Zion Williamson and the New Orleans Pelicans faced Donovan Mitchell and the Utah Jazz in the opening game of the restarted 2019-20 NBA season, they came together to protest racial injustice.
While donning warm-up shirts that read “Black Lives Matter”, the teams stood alongside each other on opposite sidelines while a video played in the arena highlighting the ongoing movement against racism. The teams then stayed in their spot and knelt during a playing of the national anthem recorded by Jon Batiste. The respective coaching staffs and team personnel, along with the game’s three referees, joined the protest.
Additionally, Shams Charania reported a “growing consensus” amongst NBA players to kneel during the national anthem. Charania noted that players could display hand-picked social justice messages on the back of their uniforms that were not included on the list approved by the league and players association.
There does exist a rule in the league’s bylaws that prohibits kneeling during the anthem, which the league is opting not to enforce. Entire teams are expected to kneel during the anthem.
The NBA players and coaches—encouraged by commissioner Adam Silver—have been determined to use their platform for social advocacy. Many players have been using their post-practice press conferences, media hits, and social media accounts to call for justice, while the coaches are brainstorming ways to make an impact through a newly-formed committee.
In the first seeding game in the Orlando bubble, Zion Williamson’s Pelicans (28-36) looked to make up ground in the NBA Western Conference standings, while the Jazz (41-23) hoped to put aside any lingering tension between Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert. This first game will be closely watched as the NBA tries to complete its season.