Will the Knicks Protest during the National Anthem?

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Andy Marlin – USA Today Sports

While protests during the United States’ National Anthem across sports leagues and teams inspired by Colin Kaepernick’s kneel during the anthem continue, NBA teams and players have suggested that they might join in the protests.

At the New York Knicks Media Day the issue came up multiple times, with players and members of the front office giving contrasting ideas of what the team will do.

The conversation began during front office media day when Phil Jackson was asked about potential protests during the National Anthem. Phil told the press he’ll “ask for a consultation and we’ll talk about it as a team. We want to do something unified.” Carmelo conveyed a similar message a few days later when the players had their media day. Melo told reporters that he thinks the situation of social unrest in the U.S. is “actually getting worse”.

When asked if he thinks the team will do anything to protest, Anthony said

“I’m pretty sure we’ll do something… we just have to be sure we’re doing it the right way”.

The biggest offseason addition in New York, Derrick Rose, gave a different point of view shortly after, saying “As a team we really haven’t thought about it, but there’s an issue. People are dying”. This is likely just miscommunication between the two teammates, but it shows that there could end up being a division in the locker room over the issue, and nothing could end up happening at all. Adding to this is Kristaps Porzingis, who said “I’m just playing basketball”, adding he’s too young to understand or get involved, but that he’s trying to take cues from Carmelo.

Anthony, the undisputed leader of the Knicks, has made it clear that he wants to do something as a team, so unless everyone on the roster wants to make a statement and protest, I don’t think there will be a protest at all. However, there’s a good chance the team has a talk and agree that they want to do something as a unit, and is one of many teams protesting during the season.  The NBA and NBPA (National Basketball Players Association) recently released a joint statement citing that there would be a joint effort to work together to manage possible protests.

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One obstacle could be in a rule unknown to many NBA fans. The league has a rule for these types of these situations, technically it is against NBA law to not participate during the Star-Spangled Banner pre-game ceremony.

During the NBA’s 1995-96 season, Denver Nuggets G Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, formerly Chris Jackson of LSU fame, was suspended for one game without pay for refusing to stand during the playing of the Star-Spangled Banner.  The suspension cost Abdul-Rauf an estimated $32,000.  Two days later, March 14th, the league and Abdul-Rauf reached an agreement where he would be allowed to stand during the playing of the Star-Spangled Banner but could close his eyes and look downward. He would reportedly silently recited Islamic Prayer during those times.  Despite the compromise, Abdul-Rauf’s career would come to an end after the 1998 season; the star guard was only 29 years of age.

Abdul-Rauf himself spoke about the protests which begin with Colin Kaepernick’s courage;

“It’s good to continue to draw people’s attention to what’s going on whether you’re an athlete, a politician, or a garbage man. These discussions are necessary,” he said. “Sometimes it takes people of that stature, athletes and entertainers, because the youth are drawn to them, [more than] teachers and professors, unfortunately.”

“It’s a process of just trying to weed you out. This is what I feel is going to happen to [Kaepernick],” Abdul-Rauf said. “They begin to try to put you in vulnerable positions. They play with your minutes, trying to mess up your rhythm. Then they sit you more. Then what it looks like is, well, the guy just doesn’t have it anymore, so we trade him.”

“It’s kind of like a setup,” he said. “You know, trying to set you up to fail and so when they get rid of you, they can blame it on that as opposed to, it was really because he took these positions. They don’t want these type of examples to spread, so they’ve got to make an example of individuals like this.”

Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf & Colin Kaepernick

Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf & Colin Kaepernick

If the Knicks or other teams/players are going to do something, the NBA will likely work with them to create a positive impact using their influence, and hopefully draw more attention to the national conversation about the senseless racism and violence. That is the best thing these players and organizations can do with their power.  With the Knicks preseason opener slated for Tuesday night, Anthony still hints that some form of protest could occur:

“We haven’t figured it out,’’ Anthony said, adding sarcastically, “We’re supposed to play basketball and shut up, or play football and shut up.”

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