The NBA resumed its 2019-20 season on Thursday, and the first game featured the New Orleans Pelicans and the Utah Jazz. Before the game began, all members of the Pelicans and Jazz kneeled during the national anthem. Before the restart, the NBA players talked about being focused on social justice after the death of George Floyd back in May, which lead to the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement. Those are one of the many reasons the Pelicans and Jazz players, as well as game referees, made a statement on Thursday by kneeling and locking arms during a pre-recorded version of the national anthem.
"The New Orleans Pelicans stand by the ideals of freedom of speech and the right to peacefully protest," the team said in a statement. "To promote meaningful changes relative fo social justice and racial equality, the New Orleans Pelicans have patterned with our players, staff and coaches to create a Social Justice Leadership Alliance committed to furthering the discussion, listening and learning and taking action to make positive change in our community and our country."
Every player, coach and ref takes a knee during the national anthem before the Pelicans-Jazz game pic.twitter.com/LZy1A6s8VM— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) July 30, 2020
The Jazz also released a statement on kneeling during the national anthem. The team said: "The Utah Jazz are committed to advancing social justice and stand in support of the players, coaches and staff as they exercise their First Amendment rights and use their voices, their experiences, and their platforms to peacefully express themselves... Our organization strives to be a unifying force in our communities, and we hope this time in our history be a catalyst for positive change in a country we love."
As reported by Fox News, the NBA had a rule going back to the early 1980s where players had to stand during the national anthem. However, due to the circumstances going on in the country, NBA commissioner Adam Silver told reporters on Thursday he supports players who peacefully protest while the teams are playing at the Walt Disney World resort in Orlando, Florida. Silver said: "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."