With the NBA preparing to open training camps, and the anthem issue being hot and only getting hotter, it was only a matter of time before NBA players would be asked about their plans. The Oklahoma City Thunder’s newly acquired shooting guard Victor Oladipo was asked by Complex Sports rather or not NBA players have taken notice of Colin Kaepernick’s silent protests of the anthem and rather or not it would translate into the NBA. “Oh, no question. I truly believe it will, because at the end of the day it’s a sport, and people are gonna be looking at some guys in the NBA to see what they’re gonna do as well. At the end of the day you just control what you can control, so your opinion is your opinion, that’s the beauty of the United States, so, do whatever you feel is best that will help you do whatever you believe.” Oladipo answered. Kaepernick has drawn a lot of attention with his kneeling, there has been discussion and criticism and it has carried over through the NFL, to other sports, and if Oladipo is right, will carry into the NBA.
Oladipo was asked whether or not protesting was something he had discussed with his teammates, he said it was not but he expected to see at least a few NBA players with protests. “A few people just in general I’ve had conversations with about that, I tell ’em the same thing, people’s beliefs are people’s beliefs, you know what I mean? You can only control so much. You can only control what you can control, and the most things you can control is yourself, so whatever you believe, believe into the utmost. But I think definitely, we’ll see a few guys in the NBA doing the same thing.” Oladipo responded.
Reigning MVP, Golden State Warriors point guard, Stephen Curry said at TechCrunch in San Francisco that he will “most likely stand” when the anthem is played. “If you follow the way Kaepernick talks and the message he’s trying to send with his act, from his mouth, he’s not disrespecting veterans. He’s not disrespecting military. That’s not his intention, he’s obviously continued the act to create a conversation for more social justice and things of that nature. So, I’ve been a part of certain conversations off the grid and finding different ways to make our community better, especially for African-Americans. And so, that’s not the way that I would do it, but I support him in his attempt to start a conversation or continue the conversation.” Curry said, so while he will likely stand he’s taken notice of Kaepernick’s protest and understands his meaning.
This is not the first protest of the anthem and wouldn’t be the first one in the NBA. In 1996, then-Denver Nuggets player Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf created controversy when he refused to stand for the anthem before games, saying the flag was a symbol of oppression in the nation, and that the U.S. had a long history of tyranny. Abdul-Rauf also said standing would conflict with his Islamic beliefs. In March 1996, the NBA suspended Abdul-Rauf for one game, but he quickly worked out a compromise in which he would stand but could close his eyes and look down during the song. He said he usually recited a prayer to himself.
What this means for our culture is that Kaepernick has used his position in American sports and now has everyone’s attention. If this spread to the NBA there’s no doubt the message he’s meaning to send would spread to everybody. At least 2 of the major sports in America would be spreading the message, with it gaining no traction in the mostly white MLB, and an unknown with the NHL. More athletes can use their platform and likely will.
But the case of Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf raises a question. Will the NBA allow this? Abdul-Rauf was suspended for his protest, would that happen to the players today? We will likely find out as many NBA players were likely inspired by this silent protest sweeping through the NFL and some other sports and will likely embark on practicing the same silent protest.