Since 1981, the NBA has had a rule that requires players to stand for the national anthem. The league made it a point to reminds teams of that rule after NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick started kneeling for the national anthem as a way to protest racial injustice and police brutality in 2016.
However, in light of the ongoing social justice movement in the country, NBA commissioner Adam Silver has made an exception for the 22 teams competing in the Orlando bubble and allowed players, coaches and essential team staff to kneel for the national anthem at the start of games. Predictably, not everyone is a fan of the players’ peaceful protest, including the 45th President of the United States Donald J. Trump.
In an interview with “Fox & Friends” on Wednesday, Trump said that it was “disgraceful” that NBA players were kneeling for the national anthem, and that he doesn’t watch games anymore because of it. After the Lakers’ loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday, LeBron James was asked about Trump’s comments, and he had to stop himself from laughing.
“I really don’t think the basketball community is sad about losing his viewership,” James said. “That’s all I’ve got to say. I don’t want to … I’m not going to get into it. Because I already know what this could lead to tomorrow for me. I’m going to get into it, but I think our game is in a beautiful position, and we have fans all over the world. Our fans not only love the way we play the game... but also respect what else we try to bring to the game and acknowledge it. What’s right and what’s wrong.
“And I hope, everyone, no matter the race, no matter the color, no matter the size, see what leadership that we have at the top in our country and understand that November is right around the corner, and it’s a big moment for us as Americans. If we continue to talk about what we want better, want to change, we have an opportunity to do that. But the game will go on without his eyes on it. I can sit here and speak for all of us that love the game of basketball: we couldn’t care less.”
Since Trump took office in 2017, no team has visited The White House after winning the NBA Finals, something that was a longstanding tradition before his term. If the Lakers win it all this season, it’s safe to assume they’ll follow suit.
There’s no telling what will happen in the upcoming election, but James is doing what he can to make sure that Black people have their voice heard through an initiative called “More Than A Vote,” which is aimed to combat voter suppression in Black communities.