(Orlando) Knee 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 games ringing the resumption of the season after four months and a half of interruption due to the coronavirus.
As they had made the commitment, the basketball players evolving in the North American league decided to take advantage of their return on the floors, inside the Florida bubble, to show their support for the movement "Black Lives Matter" in the wake of the death of George Floyd, asphyxiated during his arrest on May 25 in Minneapolis.
In recent days, the players of the 22 teams qualified for this eagerly awaited resumption of the championship, interrupted for more than four months because of the coronavirus, have come together to act in unison.
On the floors of the HP Field House and the Arena, two of the three halls of the huge ESPN Wide World of Sports complex where the matches will take place behind closed doors until mid-October, the same solemn moment was observed. .
The main players of the two meetings 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 went beyond 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, ”said LeBron James after his game.
“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."
Over the past two months, the United States has witnessed numerous protests against racial injustice following Floyd's death. Since then, kneeling on the ground has become a symbol of protest adopted by demonstrators.
This gesture was made for the first time by former American football player Colin Kaepernick in 2016, who collected insults from Donald Trump for it and found himself blacklisted in the NFL.
Despite Brooklyn star Kyrie Irving's call to boycott the revival 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.
LeBron James, for example, recently called for justice for Breonna Taylor, a black woman killed by police in her apartment in March, and demanded that the officers "who committed this crime be arrested."
Unlike many other players, the superstar has not replaced his name on his jersey with a slogan or message, as the league has allowed. The two major players of the Clippers, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, neither.
The shock that opposed them in the evening turned to the advantage of the Lakers (103-101) on a basket in two times from James 12 seconds from the end. Anthony Davis largely contributed with 34 points, while George (30 pts) missed the match point by three points.
In the other match of the day, the decisive man was named 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 test for COVID-19 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 young New Orleans star Zion Richardson opted for "Peace," saying after the fact that this collective kneeling streak "was moving ”.
"It was important to be all together here as one man doing something we believe in."