Jazz and Pelicans players and coaches kneel in protest during national anthem before NBA season resumes


Before games kicked off again after a hiatus of nearly five months, members of the Utah Jazz and New Orleans Pelicans made a statement Thursday night. 

Players, coaches and referees took a knee during the national anthem before the NBA’s resumption, with many wearing Black Lives Matter shirts. Former Sixers Jahlil Okafor, JJ Redick and Jrue Holiday are on the Pelicans. Holiday and his wife Lauren are using the 30-year-old’s remaining game checks to launch a social justice fund.

The league is aiming to focus on racial injustice as it restarts play during the coronavirus pandemic. Some players, including six Sixers, have chosen to wear jerseys with pre-approved social justice messages. Many, including Tobias Harris and Mike Scott, have used their time with the media to draw attention to the death of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Black emergency room technician, and call on Kentucky attorney general Daniel Cameron to arrest officers Myles Cosgrove, Brett Hankison and Jon Mattingly. 

The Sixers and Brett Brown, who’s part of an 11-member coaches committee headed by current Hawks head coach and former Sixers assistant Lloyd Pierce that’s dedicated to addressing racism and police brutality, have been talking often about these issues. 

“This whole racial injustice discussion and incredibly powerful, real, sad examples that lead us to this topic … we talk about all the time,” Brown said Thursday. “… There are things internally that we’ll talk about that will remain private until we feel we have a solid plan to share with the marketplace. We’ve been exploring our role, what we can do to make a difference and impact, especially as it relates to the city of Philadelphia.”

Rapper Meek Mill, a Philadelphia native who memorably rang the Sixers’ ceremonial Liberty Bell before Game 5 of the team’s 2018 first-round series vs. the Heat after being released from prison, was featured in a TNT segment shortly before the national anthem. He talked about the Black Lives Matter movement, activism and his admiration for Allen Iverson and Kobe Bryant. 

The Sixers’ season is set to resume Saturday night at 7 p.m. against the Pacers. Players have made it clear they don’t want the excitement about meaningful games returning to distract from the world outside of sports. 

“I know there are probably plenty of guys who were thinking about not even coming to this bubble because of everything that’s happening right now, me included,” Josh Richardson said Thursday. “We’re here, we love basketball, we’re trying to win a championship, but at the same time, there’s a bigger thing going on that we’re all honestly here for.” 

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