Photo by Spark Sports Illustration // Getty Images
The Los Angeles Clippers opened their 2017-18 NBA season on Monday with their annual media day, but the controversy surrounding the national anthem and President Donald Trump’s comments was the central topic among players and coaches.
The general message at the Clippers practice facility in Playa Vista for media day was that players and coaches have the basic right of freedom of expression, especially in the case of raising awareness of racial inequalities they see in communities around the nation.
“I don’t think that players want to protest,” Head Coach Doc Rivers said. “I think the reason they’re protesting is because they think there’s injustice and there’s prejudice and there’s bigotry. There’re a lot of things that we want [for] our country to be great. I don’t think anyone is upset at ‘Making America Great.’ I think we’re all upset at the word ‘Again.’ When I hear the word ‘Again,’ I’m thinking backwards, going back. That’s what that word means, and I don’t think anyone wants that.
The argument over standing during the national anthem began last year when former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick captured the national spotlight. Kaepernick was photographed kneeling during the national anthem to draw attention to how minorities are treated by police.
President Trump continued to talk and tweet about the protests, stepping into the debate saying NFL owners should fire the “son of a bitch” referring to players taking a knee or deciding not to stand during the national anthem.
Rivers had another message for the president.
“If Donald Trump did his job, players wouldn’t be kneeling, you know, at the end of the day,” Rivers said. “Because I don’t think anyone wants this country to do poorly, we all are cheering for this country to do well, so do your job and players will stop kneeling.”
New Clippers guard Lou Williams, who was acquired in the Chris Paul trade, praised NFL players who sent a powerful message of solidarity during Week 3.
“I just want all of us to be mindful of how it started,” Williams said. “This is about police brutality and then everybody looking for equality. I think yesterday’s protest was a direct response to what the president said. … If we’re going to protest something, I want it to be for the actual issues at hand instead of just being spiteful.”
Blake Griffin also agreed with athletes using their position to send a message, especially with the freedom of expression.
“You have to respect people’s opinions,” Griffin said. “You don’t have to agree with it but you have to respect people’s opinions and I like that guys have been using their platforms to do just that.”
Trump also tweeted last weekend that Stephen Curry and the NBA champion Golden State Warriors would not be invited to the White House.
Going to the White House is considered a great honor for a championship team.Stephen Curry is hesitating,therefore invitation is withdrawn!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 23, 2017
The tweet pulled the NBA into the conversation, leading Clippers owner Steve Ballmer to tweet out his support for an athletes’ right to protest.
Let’s stop vilifying athletes who stand up for issues they deem important. Let’s’ encourage citizen participation
— Steve Ballmer (@Steven_Ballmer) September 24, 2017
While athletes from the NFL and the NBA have come together to show their support for social activism, it’ll be interesting to see how NBA teams, let alone the Clippers, use their stance as athletes to raise awareness for social issues.