As Colin Kaepernick remains unemployed by the NFL — believed to be blacklisted by the league’s owners over his refusal to stand for the national anthem in protest of racial injustice — one NBA owner believes the ex-San Francisco 49ers quarterback would have a job had he played basketball.
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban told The Washington Post he thinks the NBA would be more accepting than the NFL of a player who publicly demonstrated his political beliefs prior to games.
“I don’t know what his status is in the NFL, but I’m glad the NBA doesn’t have a politician litmus test for our players,” said Cuban. “I’d like to think we encourage our players to exercise their constitutional rights.”
The NBA did feature one such player two decades ago, when Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf sat during the national anthem over similar views about oppression and tyranny in the United States. The Muslim American was originally suspended by the league in 1996 before working out a compromise whereby he stood and silently prayed with his eyes closed and head down during The Star-Spangled Banner.
Abdul-Rauf was traded by the Denver Nuggets a few months later. He played three more NBA seasons for the Sacramento Kings and Vancouver Grizzlies sandwiched around two seasons out of the league.
The NBA now has a policy in place to fine players who do not stand for the national anthem. While there was much speculation that NBA players would follow Kaepernick’s lead this past season — particularly after LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul and Dwyane Wade began the 2016 ESPYs with a call to action against racial injustice — but a number of teams instead stood in solidarity with Kaepernick by linking arms during the national anthem. This response did not violate NBA rules.
The Philadelphia 76ers did come under fire when they told singer Sevyn Streeter she could not perform the national anthem in a “We Matter” jersey. The team later apologized and invited her back.
In the WNBA, the entire Indiana Fever team knelt for the national anthem in July 2016, and league president Lisa Borders issued a statement supporting their right to express their views. Several WNBA teams also wore T-shirts in support of the Black Lives Matter movement during warmups last year, including in Minnesota, where police officers walked off the job in protest. The league initially fined the players for violating uniform policy, only to rescind the penalties following heavy criticism.
A number of NBA players, including LeBron James and Kobe Bryant, wore “I Can’t Breathe” T-shirts in December 2014 after the choking death of Eric Garner at the hands of a New York City police officer. NBA commissioner Adam Silver has long supported players’ rights to speak out on social issues, although he would prefer they abide by league policy. Silver did not levy fines for those T-shirts. [/restrict]