The NBA sent a strong message to its players on Friday when they sent a memo reinforcing the rules that players and coaches stand for the national anthem, which is a subtle jab to the NFL and their recent protests during the national anthem, reports ESPN.
The memo was distributed by deputy commissioner Mark Tatum. It instructs teams that “the league office will determine how to deal with any possible instance in which a player, coach, or trainer does not stand for the anthem.”
“‘The memo states that individual teams “do not have the discretion to waive” the rule that players, coaches and staff stand for the anthem. The league has the discretion to discipline players who violate the rule. It is not clear if the league would exercise it in the event of any protest. The league also does not want teams independently disciplining players, sources say, and has encouraged open dialogue within teams,’ ESPN reports.”
“This could include a message of unity and how the team is committed to bringing the community together this season,” the memo states.
The memo suggests instead that the team might prepare a video tribute or public service announcement featuring “team leadership speaking about the issues they care about.”
The memo comes a day after commissioner Adam Silver said he expects players to stand for the national anthem.
The NBA is obviously trying to find a delicate balance in how to respond to the multitude of players protesting in sports and the general feelings surrounding Trump’s presidency. Silver and Michele Roberts, executive director of the players’ union, have always urged the players to address issues that matter to them.
“It also suggests other ways in which teams can “continue to develop impactful community programs,” including mentorship programs, community gatherings, using basketball to “build bridges” between segments of a community and inviting community leaders to speak to teams.”
Several players went even further on media day and explicitly condemned Trump and his policies. Some owners are sympathetic to those views, while others are concerned that such statements might alienate the fans who might support the president.
The NBA has sent a lot of memos trying to convince the players to protest in a different way. One said that beginning in October, the U.S. conference of Mayors “will host a series of community conversations and other events with NBA teams to engage young people, law enforcement, and local leaders.”
Roberts told the Undefeated’s Marc J. Spears on Friday that the union will respond to any protest-related discipline from the league office “when it happens.”