Silver sidesteps query on kneeling during anthem

    NBA commissioner Adam Silver during a pre match press conference REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

    A LONGSTANDING NBA rule requiring players to stand at attention in an orderly line during the playing of the United States and Canadian national anthems could be challenged starting next month in Orlando.

    NBA commissioner Adam Silver, speaking at the Time 100 summit on Tuesday, sidestepped a question about how the league will approach kneeling during the anthem, which will be played prior to every game.

    Silver was asked if players will be “allowed to kneel during the national anthem in Orlando.”

    “Again, I’m not comfortable with the word ‘allowed,’” Silver said. “I think, you know, we’ve had a rule on our books that goes back to the early ‘80s. It precedes even David Stern’s tenure as commissioner. That calls for players to stand in a line, at attention during the national anthem. I also understand the role of the protest and I think that we’ll deal with that situation when it presents itself.”

    In an interview June 19, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said he hopes players are allowed to kneel during the anthem this season as a form of recognition that the NBA will help address racial inequality and police brutality, among other social concerns.

    The exact wording in the NBA rulebook states players “must stand and line up in a dignified posture along the foul lines during the playing of the American and/or Canadian national anthems.”

    Cuban said he would defer to NBPA executive director Michele Roberts and Silver on a policy for the anthem but pointed to the current climate and circumstances when noting an exception should be made.

    “Whether it’s holding their arm up in the air, whether it’s taking a knee, whatever it is, I don’t think this is an issue of respect or disrespect to the flag or to the anthem or to our country,” Cuban told ESPN. “I think this is more a reflection of our players’ commitment to this country and the fact that it’s so important to them that they’re willing to say what’s in their heart and do what they think is right. I’ll defer to Adam on any final judgments and Michele Roberts.

    “But the reality is, my hope is we’ll let the players do exactly what they think is the right thing to do.”

    ESPN reported the NBA plans to script “Black Lives Matter” on the three gameday courts scheduled to be used in Orlando for the resumption of the 2019-20 regular season and playoffs.

    With no entirely risk-free path to play, Silver said he hopes the league can be a model for other industries to safely reopen when it resumes its season.

    Players from 22 teams will live, train and play in a so-called “bubble” at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, with tip-off for the fan-free games set for July 30, months after the league abruptly suspended its season in March due to COVID-19. – Reuters