Kneeling to the ground during the American anthem, NBA players, coaches and referees protested against racial injustices on Thursday on the sidelines of the Utah-New Orleans and Lakers-Clippers matches heralding the resumption of the season after four months and a half interruption due to the coronavirus.
As they had made the commitment, basketball players playing in the North American league have decided to take advantage of their return to the courts, inside the Florida bubble, to show their support for the “Black Lives Matter” movement in the wake of the death of George Floyd, suffocated during his arrest on May 25 in Minneapolis.
In recent days, players from 22 teams qualified for this eagerly awaited resumption of the championship, interrupted for more than four months because of the coronavirus, concerted to act in unison.
On the floors of the HP Field House and the Arena, two of the three halls of the huge ESPN complex World Wid e of Sports where the matches will take place behind closed doors until mid-October, the same solemn moment was thus observed.
The main players in the two matches first all gathered along the sideline , wearing the same black long-sleeved t-shirt with “Black Lives Matter” written on it, words also painted on the floor. Then they knelt down, holding each other arm in arm.
“Today it was more than basketball. We understand what's going on in society right now and we are using this platform that is the NBA to get the message out and stay strong on it. It's a good start, “LeBron James said after his game.
– No penalty –
” There has been progress. But in the past, when there has been progress, we have let it go a bit. We don't want that to happen anymore. We are dealing with a lot of racism, social injustice and police brutality. Not just in our neighborhoods, not just on black people or people of color, ”he added.
Faced with this collective momentum, NBA boss Adam Silver, present and masked in the stands, decided that no penalty would be imposed for these kneeling. “I respect the Unified Act of Peaceful Protest for Social Justice and under these unique circumstances I will not apply our old rule requiring us to stand up during our national anthem.”
These last two months, the United States was the scene of numerous protests against racial injustice after the death of Floyd. Since then, kneeling on the ground has become a symbol of protest adopted by demonstrators.
This gesture was made for the first time by the former American football player Colin Kaepernick in 2016, who received the insults of Donald Trump and found himself blacklisted in the NFL.
Despite Brooklyn star Kyrie Irving's call to boycott the takeover to better devote himself to this fight, almost all of the players decided to go to Orlando where their speeches on this theme are daily.
– “Peace”, “Equality” –
Thus LeBron James recently demanded that justice be done for Breonna Taylor, a black woman killed by the police in her apartment in March, and demanded that the officers “who committed this crime be arrested.”
Unlike many other players, the superstar did not replace his name on his jersey with a slogan or message, as has licensed the league. The two major players of the Clippers, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, neither.
The shock which opposed them in the evening turned to the advantage of the Lakers (103-101) on a basket in two times from James at 12 seconds of the term. Anthony Davis was a big contributor with 34 points, while George (30 pts) missed the match point by three.
In the other game of the day, the decisive man was Rudy Gobert.
As a symbol, the French pivot first scored the very first basket of the match, 141 days after the announcement of his positive Covid-19 test which resulted in the suspension of the season. And to complete his day, his two free throws gave the victory to the Jazz (106-104) against the Pelicans.
Gobert had chosen the word “Equality” on his back and the young star of La Nouvelle- Orleans, Zion Richardson, opted for “Peace”, declaring after the fact that this collective kneeling sequence “was moving”.
“It was important to be all together, here, like one man doing something we believe in.”
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© Agence France-Presse