Oklahoma City Thunder players took a knee during the national anthem ahead of their game on Saturday, one day after a state representative threatened to reexamine state benefits to the team if they did just that.
A number of players on the opposing team, the Utah Jazz, also knelt, joining other teams and players that have done the same thing to protest racial injustice since the NBA restarted its season last week.
Jazz and Thunder all kneel for the national anthem. One referee remains standing. pic.twitter.com/hFMoq9hVNl— Eric Walden (@tribjazz) August 1, 2020
The move by Thunder players came just one day after Oklahoma state Rep. Sean Roberts (R) threatened the team against doing so on Friday, according to Oklahoma News 4.
“If the Oklahoma City Thunder leadership and players follow the current trend of the NBA by kneeling during the national anthem prior to Saturday’s game, perhaps we need to reexamine the significant tax benefits the State of Oklahoma granted the Oklahoma City Thunder organization when they came to Oklahoma,” Roberts said in a statement to the outlet.
He also reportedly labeled kneeling protests during the anthem as “anti-patriotic” and claimed the movement, meant to protest racism and police brutality, was disrespectful “to the American flag and all it stands for.”
His comments come as a number of conservative lawmakers, including President TrumpDonald TrumpHillicon Valley — Presented by Xerox — Twitter's algorithm boosts right-leaning content, internal study finds Ohio Democrat calls Vance an 'ass----' over Baldwin tweet Matt Taibbi says Trump's rhetoric caused public perception of US intelligence services to shift MORE, have continued to voice opposition to the form of protest, which former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started during the 2016 NFL season to bring attention to racial injustice in the country.
The debate over the movement has gained new prominence since the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis launched nationwide protests this summer.
While Roberts noted the Thunder "is still under contract to receive these tax breaks from our state until 2024," he added that he thinks the money "would be better served" in support of police departments — a comment that comes as some local lawmakers have considered redirecting funds from police agencies to other community programs in recent weeks amid nationwide protests.
"Perhaps these funds would be better served in support of our police departments rather than giving tax breaks to an organization that supports defunding police and the dissolution of the American nuclear family," Roberts claimed.