Inspired By Nationwide Protests, Lakers Lock Arms During The National Anthem
The Lakers notched a come-from-behind win against the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday night at the Honda Center. It's a pre-season game, however, so it's not like it matters a whole lot in the grand scheme of things.
But there was also something of definite note.
In the past few weeks, we've heard rumblings from the players that the team may participate in a protest during the national anthem. While the details were unclear, it had been repeated that whatever course they took would be done together as a group. Fielding questions about if the team would stage protests, new coach Luke Walton told Inside SoCal that, "I think most importantly is what we get behind as an organization and individually as a team."
True to those rumblings, the entire team locked arms during Tuesday's national anthem to show solidarity for those staging similar protests. There was a caveat: while the team locked arms, they still stood for the anthem, thus striking a middle-ground between protest and reverence.
Speaking to NBC 4 about the gesture, Lakers center Tarik Black said that social inequality "is very true and it is a social issue, but we also pay homage to and respect our country and we do appreciate it. We don't want to go too far on one end and then disrespect either side because we respect both. But we do understand that there is an issue."
When asked if the team would continuing protesting, Black implied that this wasn't a one-off thing. "The issue continues. The issue hasn't stopped, so we won't stop," said Black.
The Lakers weren't the only team to participate in this type of protest. Across the NBA, several teams have linked arms during the anthem before their pre-season games. Here's a video of the New York Knicks and the Houston Rockets coming together to lock arms on Tuesday night's game in Houston:
As you probably know by now, the act of protesting the national anthem had first gained traction with 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who had begun kneeling during the anthem for the 2016 season to protest the recent string of police shootings of black men. It caught on, with athletes across different sports staging similar protests during the anthem. The Denver Broncos' Brandon Marshall and the Indianapolis Colts' Antonio Cromartie also took a knee. Soccer player Megan Rapinoe (of the United States Womens' National Team and Seattle Reign FC) also started kneeling. Even members of the East Carolina University marching band have taken to protesting.
There's been a backlash, to say the least. In Rapinoe's case, stadium managers had decided to play the national anthem early, before she could come out of the locker room to take a knee. And East Carolina University issued a statement saying that school officials "regret the actions" of the band members and that protests will "will not be tolerated moving forward." Also, a local radio station said that it would refuse to broadcast East Carolina's next football game.
On the flip side, it seems that the NBA is, at the very least, open to the idea of showing solidarity with protesters. Both Walton and Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak have voiced their support for the players' decision, reports the L.A. Times. "We fully support our players in exercising their right of expression over an issue that is so important," read a statement that was released by the team right after the anthem during Tuesday's game. NBA commission Adam Silver, while perhaps not as explicit in his support, has at the very least opened the doors for dialogue for the league's players. In a statement sent to NBA players in September, Silver said that "The league and players association, working together have begun developing substantive ways for us to come together and take meaningful action."