Prior to their preseason game against the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday, players and coaches on the New York Knicks locked arms during the national anthem. They did so as a “sign of unity” and as a means to bring attention to the issues of “gun violence, poverty, equal justice, access to education and civil rights.”
“We have a deep love and respect for this country,” the Knicks said in a statement. “The United States has given us all so much including an unbelievable opportunity and platform to stand up for what’s right. … Standing together, by addressing these issues, that is how we honor the sacrifices made to defend liberties.”
— NY_KnicksPR (@NY_KnicksPR) October 3, 2017
Enes Kanter, who was recently acquired by the Knicks in the blockbuster trade that sent Carmelo Anthony to the Oklahoma City Thunder, told ESPN‘s Ian Begley that he would have taken a knee had the team not decided as a whole to stand together. The important thing, he explained, is that people leave their differences on the table and “try to find what we have in common.”
“Today, we protested peacefully out there,” Kanter said. “We didn’t do nothing crazy, whatever. I am going to pray for this country because I love this country and I hope things will get better and better every day.”
The NBA actually has a rule prohibiting players from taking a knee during the national anthem. In wake of the controversy surrounding Donald Trump and the NFL last month, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said that he expects players to continue standing for the national anthem this season. NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum then sent a memo out to the league’s players and coaches the following day saying they will “determine how to deal with any possible instance in which a player, coach or trainer does not stand for the anthem.”
While it remains to be seen if that prevents every player from taking a knee, the Knicks are unlikely to be the only team in the league this season to use its platform to bring attention to issues they believe in.