NBA teams bowed their heads and knelt during the playing of the US national anthem while wearing Black Lives Matter T-shirts on Thursday as the league returned for the first time since the coronavirus halted play in March.
Coaches and game officials joined players from the Utah Jazz, New Orleans Pelicans and Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers in taking a knee to protest against racial injustice and police brutality in the first games in 140 days.
Black Lives Matter was also written on the courts at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in the Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando, where the NBA plans to finish its season with 22 teams inside a bio-secure bubble.
“We will not be silent,” Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard said in a video played before the games.Players had social justice messages like “Equality,” “Education Reform” and “Say Their Names” on the back of their jerseys in place of their names.
Athletes from around the world have united in solidarity behind anti-racism protests sparked by the death in May of George Floyd, a Black man in police custody in Minneapolis
“It has taken a very long time to get this sort of momentum going and it can’t be lost,” San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said in the video, which showed images of large protests that formed in the wake of Floyd’s death.
In the first game, the Jazz came from behind to defeat the Pelicans 106-104 after the Pelicans’ Brandon Ingram’s three-pointer at the buzzer rimmed out.
The second game was underway and featured an all-LA battle between the Western Conference-leading Lakers and Clippers.