WASHINGTON — John Wall used to be reluctant to wade into non-basketball debates. There was no particular reason. He just preferred not to. So it was surprising to hear Wall, in July, speaking passionately about the tragedy in Charlottesville, Virginia. And there was Wall again, in September, urging NFL stars Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers to speak out more on social issues.


“It’s always been important to want to say something,” Wall said on the most recent The Vertical Podcast. “But sometimes I think everybody has already got their point across, and there is no need to say something. I felt like it was time for me to say something.”

The NFL’s perceived blackballing of Colin Kaepernick — and President Donald Trump’s divisive response to players like Kaepernick and others kneeling during the national anthem — struck a nerve with Wall. Civil rights, social injustice — these are important issues to the Wizards guard. Tattooed all over his body are images of prominent black sports pioneers (Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali) and civil rights leaders (Malcolm X, Martin Luther King). To Wall, the last few months have felt deeply personal.

“Those guys I put on my back are powerful people to me,” Wall said. “Some are the reasons I play sports, some are the reasons I do a lot of things. Because of what they believed in. Muhammad Ali, one of my favorite quotes [of his] is [paraphrasing], “Who is not crazy to take risks will never accomplish nothing in life, will never be nothing.” That’s something I live by. Because even if you are a billionaire or somebody in another profession, you have to take risks to get there. If you don’t believe in taking risks and taking chances, you are never going to accomplish nothing in life. That’s what I take pride in.”

On Monday, Wall wasn’t sure if the Wizards would do anything during the national anthem — on Wednesday, Washington’s players locked arms during the anthem before a preseason game against Toronto — and said any decision made moving forward would be made as a team. He did take exception to NBA commissioner Adam Silver’s edict that players needed to stand during the anthem, a message Silver delivered to the media following the NBA Board of Governors meeting and later reinforced in a memo to all 30 teams.

“I don’t think he had to make it so public,” Wall said. “Because now, basically, you are telling grown men that they can’t do something. Grown men have their own opinion on whatever they want to do. I think J.R. [Smith] said something like, ‘Yeah, all right.’ He feels like you’re telling me I can’t do this, or I won’t do it. At the end of the day, [Smith] has an opinion if he wants to do it or not. He has to deal with the consequences if he knows what he wants to do. We’re going to see. Some [players] are going to take it as, ‘You can’t tell me what to do.’ Same as Donald Trump. He’s saying get those sons of ’b’s off the field. People take it as like, OK, you are trying to disrespect me, play me as a grown man. I still have pride and morals for myself.

“[Silver] didn’t say nothing wrong to us. But he said, ‘You have no choice.’ Well now people say, ‘I have a choice.’ It’s like if you are injured, you have a choice to play through it or not play through it. You just have to deal with the consequences. At the end of the day, you know what the consequences are. You have to be willing to accept it.” [/restrict]