NBA teams kneel during national anthem as league restarts season

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NBA teams knelt and locked arms during the national anthem Thursday as the league reopened its season on courts painted with “Black Lives Matter.”

Thursday night’s games consisted of two match-ups at the ESPN Wide World of Sports campus in Florida, the so-called bubble where 22 teams will be playing as a precaution against the coronavirus.

Every player from the four teams competing Thursday knelt during the national anthem to draw attention to racial injustice.

“That was beautifully done. Done in unity. Nice to see,” former NBA star Shaquille O’Neal said on TNT. “Again, when you have your platform, I think it’s very important that you speak up, very important that you speak your mind.”

“So we use our voice to raise awareness, now we have to go vote. We have to vote our mayors in — our mayors appoint chiefs of police. We have to vote senators and politicians,” O’Neal added. “It doesn’t just stop with sending out a tweet or just yelling all the time. We have to continue to fight, continue the movement. … I’m proud of everyone.”

Longtime commentator and NBA icon Charles Barkley said people should be able to express themselves freely, even if it doesn’t mean kneeling for the anthem.

“The national anthem means different things to different people,” Barkley said. “I’m glad these guys are unified. If people don’t kneel, they’re not a bad person. I want to make that perfectly clear. I’m glad they had unity, but if we have a guy who doesn’t want to kneel because the anthem means something to him, he should not be vilified.”

The two games on Thursday both had exciting finishes, with LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers beating the L.A. Clippers, 103-101, and the Utah Jazz edging out the New Orleans Pelicans, 106-104.

Ratings for the league’s return will be available Friday afternoon.

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