The National Basketball Association sent a memo to teams reminding players of the long-standing policy against protesting during the national anthem.
The policy dates from 1996, when then Denver Nuggets player Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf sat during the anthem because he said the flag stood for oppression. The league suspended Abdul-Rauf for one game and initiated the new policy that outlined how players, coaches, scouts, and other employees must act during the playing of the anthem.
Below are the NBA rules for conduct during the National Anthem. pic.twitter.com/mCADF8lqYJ
— Bobby Marks (@BobbyMarks42) September 28, 2017
The NBA office issued the memo to make sure players understood that protests during the anthem would not be tolerated. But the memo also lists alternatives that teams can use to reinforce the “core values” of the NBA.
The NBA reminded all 30 teams in a memo of a rule requiring players to stand for the national anthem, and suggested coaches or players address fans before the national anthem or broadcast a video as ways of highlighting their commitment to diversity and equality.
NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum sent the memo, obtained by the Washington Post, to team presidents and general managers on Friday. Preseason games are set to begin Saturday.
In his memo, Tatum recommended teams use the first games of the season “to demonstrate your commitment to the NBA’s core values of equality, diversity, inclusion and serve as a unifying force in the community.”
He said a coach or player could speak to fans before the national anthem begins, or show a video of players or community leaders speaking about “the issues they care about.”
Tatum also reminded teams of a decades-long rule stating players, coaches, and trainers have to stand for the national anthem.
“The league office will determine how to deal with any possible instance in which a player, coach or trainer does not stand for the anthem. (Teams do not have the discretion to waive this rule),” the memo says.
The reminder to teams come after President Trump called on NFL team owners to fire players who kneel during the national anthem. The president unleashed a flurry of tweets throughout the week criticizing the NFL.
He also took aim at Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors, and revoked an invitation for the team to visit the White House. Afterwards, the Warriors announced they would not go to the White House at all.
The NBA’s Board of Governors met this week to discuss the president’s comments about Curry, as well as the current environment in sports following Trump’s criticisms of national anthem protests.
There doesn’t appear to be much wiggle room in the policy that forbids protesting during the anthem, so you would expect players to follow it. But that doesn’t mean these pregame speeches and ceremonies won’t be non-political. I’m sure most teams will make some reference to the president’s remarks, even though they won’t use Trump’s name explicitly.
It’s clear the NBA is very concerned about taking the same suicidal path of the NFL. But the opportunity for controversy is still there and if players can find a way to show their solidarity with the protesters, you know they will.