The 2019-20 NBA season resumed with the players and coaches from Utah Jazz and New Orleans Pelicans kneeling while The Star-Spangled Banner was played. The Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers followed suit in the second game, and expect this to be the trend moving forward.
The Toronto Raptors will play their first game in four months against the Lakers on Saturday, and while there is considerable excitement around their quest to repeat as champions, there’s a bigger focus on the minds of the players. As part of their continued efforts to further social justice movements, specifically around Black Lives Matter, the Raptors will also kneel during the anthem.
“It was beautiful. I think it was amazing,” Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry said of the demonstrations in a conference call on Thursday. “It set the tone for what we’re down here for. Those four teams, including the coaches and their organizations, I think it was beautiful that they did it in unison.”
“For us to be able to do that, and for our league to support us, the players and all of us being one. Yes we’re all competitors and yes we want to beat each other, but at the end of the day we’re trying to get social justice and things changed and keep the conversation going and doing more to make sure that the next generation doesn’t have to go through what we’ve gone through.”
Raptors coach Nick Nurse anticipates that the team will kneel for both the national anthems of both Canada and the United States. As Nurse points out, although most of the focus is on the ongoing protests in America, there are also similar problems with police brutality and systemic racism in Canada.
“This isn’t about countries, this isn’t about borders. To me, this is about continuing to shine a light on how we need to do better in the police brutality area, we need to do better in systemic racism area. That’s not just Canada or America, that’s a lot of places. So we treat that as one long song,” Nurse said.
For Lowry, he’s hoping to further the conversation around inequality with respect to education, which is why he will wear “education reform” on the back of his jersey. Lowry grew up in a low-income neighbourhood and wasn’t afforded the same resources and opportunities as those in more affluent backgrounds. There are also other issues with education, such as the practice of streaming in Canada, which disproportionately disadvantaged black students.
“It starts with the youth. The type of neighbourhood I grew up in, they don’t get the same education as the kids in the suburbs and other more polished neighbourhoods. They don’t get the tax money, they don’t get the opportunity that other kids do. I think it starts there, it starts with educating the youth, having them understand what it is,” Lowry said.
As for the anthem on Saturday, Lowry says his mind will be on all the lives that were lost due to police brutality, and for the bigger goal at hand towards creating a more equitable and peaceful future for his children.
“Justice for Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Eric Garner, all these black human beings, black men, black women being killed in cold blood. That stuff hits hard. I have two young children, and I would hate to have that happen to them or to me or anyone in my family or anyone I know. I couldn’t imagine going through that, and I think that will all be played in my heart,” Lowry said.
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