As impressive as LeBron James was in the final minutes of the Lakers’ win over the Clippers on Thursday in their opener at the NBA restart in Orlando after looking rusty for much of the game, after the game, James’ thoughts were also on how things looked before the game started.
That was when he locked arms with teammates Quinn Cook and Anthony Davis and knelt as the national anthem was sung by the Compton Kids Club. Wearing Black Lives Matter T-shirts, players and coaches on both sides took a knee.
Former 49ers star Colin Kaepernick began the practice of kneeling before the anthem to protest police violence in Black communities in September 2016. Kaepernick became a free agent the following offseason and has been estranged from the NFL since.
James was concerned that the Lakers and Clippers, “made Kaep proud,” he said in his postgame press conference, via CBS Sportsline. “I hope we continue to make Kaep proud. Every single day I hope I make him proud on how I live my life, not only on the basketball floor, but off the floor. I want to always speak out against things that I feel like are unjust. I always want to be educated on things and go about it that way.”
The Pelicans and Jazz, who played the first game of the evening before the Lakers-Clippers, also knelt for the anthem.
LeBron James: ‘We Just Thank’ Kaepernick
James finished the game with 16 points on 6-for-19 shooting, adding 11 rebounds and 7 assists. He also committed 5 turnovers. But his defense on Clippers stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, as well as his final layup, boosted the Lakers to a key win in their quest to lock up the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.
The Lakers would have to lose all seven of their remaining games to be caught by the No. 2 seed in the conference, the Clippers.
But, speaking on Kaepernick, James continued:
Kaep was someone who stood up when times weren’t comfortable, when people didn’t understand, people refused to listen to what he was saying. If you go back and go look at any of his postgame interviews when he was talking about why he was kneeling, it had absolutely nothing to do with the flag. It had absolutely nothing to do with the soldiers, the men and women that keep our land free. He explained that, and their ears were closed, people never listened, they refused to listen, but I did. A lot of people in the black community did listen, and we just thank for him sacrificing everything that he did to put us in a position today, even years later, to be able to have that moment like we did tonight.
NBA’s Adam Silver Won’t Enforce National Anthem Rule
Before the start of Thursday’s game, NBA commissioner Adam Silver made clear that he would not enforce the rule that requires players to stand during the playing of the national anthem.
When the league arranged its plans with the players association to secure a return to action following a four-month absence because of the spread of the novel coronavirus, the ability to speak out on social justice issues was critical for the players. Silver and the league have tried to respect that, including having “Black Lives Matter” painted on the court.
In a statement to Yahoo! Sports’ Chris Haynes, the commissioner 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.”