The sports world has been intertwined with the social aspects of the real world, recently. More and more athletes have become immune to criticism, choosing to use their platforms to call for necessary changes to our society.
It started with Colin Kaepernick sitting (and eventually kneeling) during the playing of the national anthem. The San Francisco 49ers quarterback took a ton of undeserved criticism but handled it about as well as possible: by driving home the message of his protest. Kaepernick was protesting social injustice and inequality in the United States. Namely, he was protesting police brutality, especially as it pertained to the numerous cases of black men being shot by police officers.
Kaepernick’s message and protest have since caught many athletes. NFL players have joined Kaep in kneeling during the anthem or displaying their solidarity in other ways. As the NBA preseason begins, basketball players are also joining in on the movement.
The Lakers are among the first group of players showing solidarity with Kaepernick and his message. The team took their own stand on Tuesday night as they locked arms in a show of unity and protest during the playing of the national anthem.
Slightly better picture of the Lakers interlocking arms pic.twitter.com/qBhezKC5Xw
— Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) October 5, 2016
This wasn’t breaking news, of course. Several players had mentioned during media day that the team was planning some sort of action to be taken once games began. It appears that the team eventually decided on this form of protest to show team-wide unity and to honor the country and the anthem while taking their stand.
After the game, center Tarik Black spoke out about the decision, claiming that the team wanted to use their platform to call for equality (via Shahan Ahmed of SoCal Sports):
“We wanted to honor what was going on and the people who lost their lives and the social issue that is happening,” Lakers center Tarik Black, who was the star of the game on the court, explained after the game. “It is very true and it is a social issue, but we also pay homage to and respect our country and we do appreciate it. We don’t want to go too far on one end and then disrespect either side because we respect both. But we do understand that there is an issue. There is something going on. There is something that needs to happen. There needs to be equality.”
Black claimed that it was a team decision and head coach Luke Walton echoed that sentiment. According to Walton, the coaches, team management, and owners all agreed to support the players in their protest regardless of how they chose to do it.
In fact, the Lakers released a statement acknowledging their support for the players and pledged to continue working to find solutions:
We fully support our players in exercising their right of expression over an issue that is so important. We also applaud the NBA and the NBA Players Association for their collaborative work in expanding the dialogue and for their spirit of cooperation. Finally, we also look forward to furthering our participation on this issue through our Building Bridges with Basketball campaign and our Community Conversation events.
It was a tremendous show of social knowledge and wisdom from a team filled with many young players. Each appear to understand the importance of the issue at hand and that they can use their platforms to encourage the necessary changes. No one has been more eloquent or out-spoken about the topic as Black, who seems to have an unofficial leadership role in this aspect.
The center (who has a degree in organizational leadership from Memphis) does not want this show of protest to be a one-time thing:
“The issue continues. The issue hasn’t stopped, so we won’t stop.”
This article has been updated to include the Lakers’ statement on the matter.