Every last player on the Oklahoma City Thunder took a knee during the national anthem Saturday after a local lawmaker threatened the NBA team’s tax benefits if they engaged in the protest against racism and police brutality.
They were joined by competing players from the Utah Jazz team before Thunder’s debut game in the Arena at Disney’s Wide World of Sports in Orlando.
The team posted a video of the action titled “For Equality” on its Twitter page.
Thunder guard Chris Paul, the president of the National Basketball Players Association, said later that it was “special to do that together, as a team.” Paul helped negotiate a deal with the NBA to allow players to wear social justice messages on their jerseys.
Thunder Head Coach Billy Donovan said: “You see a lot of the social injustice that takes place” in players’ lives. “We just want to be behind these guys in terms of constantly fighting for equality all the way around,” he added.
The action came after state GOP Rep. Sean Roberts threatened Friday to “reexamine” the team’s tax benefits that lured them to Oklahoma if they took a knee. He linked the action to support for Black Lives Matter, Marxism and efforts to “destroy nuclear families” in a wild statement. Almost all NBA players in the nation have been taking a knee during the anthem since games began Thursday.
“By kneeling … the NBA and its players are showing disrespect to the American flag and all it stands for,” Roberts said a statement.
The “anti-patriotic act makes clear the NBA’s support of the Black Lives Matter group … its ties to Marxism and its efforts to destroy nuclear families,” the statement added. Roberts threatened: “Perhaps we need to re-examine the significant tax benefits the state … gave the Oklahoma City Thunder organization when they came to Oklahoma.”
NBA rules require players to stand during the anthem. But league commissioner Adam Silver said Thursday he would not enforce the regulation at this moment in history out of “respect” for the teams.
The Thunder won 110-94.