After 141 days, the NBA is set to resume its 2019-20 season. Thursday will tip off the final portion of the season with a doubleheader, beginning when the New Orleans Pelicans “host” the Utah Jazz in Orlando, Florida. The teams are reportedly planning to unite before the game and kneel around the Black Lives Matter signage on the court. The plan is drawing both praise and ire from NBA fans.
The NBA will have a whole new look
The NBA season came to a crashing halt on March 11 when Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz tested positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19). NBA Commissioner Adam Silver immediately put a hold on the season. There had been serious doubt whether the league would be able to resume playing this year.
Twenty-two NBA teams have been invited to Orlando to participate in the remainder of the season. Sixteen teams will make the playoffs and the teams will all play eight games to determine postseason seeding. The playoffs will be the same format as usual with three seven-game series before the NBA Finals.
Players will be able to wear NBA-approved messages related to social injustice on the back of their jerseys. The basketball courts will have Black Lives Matter written on it. It will be a way for the NBA and its players to use their platform to raise awareness about racial inequality.
Utah Jazz, New Orleans Pelicans plan to kneel during anthem
According to an ESPN report, players and coaches of both the Utah Jazz and the New Orleans Pelicans may be planning a united kneeling session during the anthem. Since 1981, the NBA has had a rule that states, “players, coaches, and trainers are to stand and line up in a dignified posture along the sidelines or on the foul line.”
The league, according to ESPN, isn’t expected to enforce that rule. Some players and coaches in Major League Baseball have been kneeling during their anthems. Many of the NBA players have been using their time in the Orlando “bubble” to speak out on social injustice. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is fine with players speaking out and he said he understands these are changing times.
“The NBA has had a rule on its books that preceded David Stern, which was standing for the national anthem. Having said that, I respect peaceful protest,” Silver said Wednesday on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” “I’m not sure what our players will do when they come out tomorrow night. We’ll of course address it at the time but I also understand these are highly unusual times.”
National anthem plan drawing mixed reviews
Kneeling during the national anthem has always been a controversial topic since former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick did it in 2016. It remains that way. Since word leaked that a possible unified kneeling between members of the Utah Jazz and New Orleans Pelicans may take place, fans have been vocal on both sides of the issue.
Social media was overflowing with messages regarding the topic. One fan in support of the kneeling tweeted, “My reasons for supporting the @NBA has always gone far beyond the enjoyment of the game. I hope that my team, @PelicansNBA, can be the first to usher in a new era and tradition. Thank you, @malika_andrews for the piece. So proud to be a die-hard hoops fan.”
Others weren’t as supportive. “Another reason to not watch the NBA,” one commenter said on Twitter. Another commenter brought up a point to say that some players could be pressured into kneeling. “Can you imagine the pressure if you were the players who didn’t want to kneel?” Denise Helton tweeted. Things around the NBA will be very interesting before and during the games.