HOUSTON – Steve Kerr had plenty to ponder at Golden State Warriors shootaround this morning.
Will his team respond well in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals against the Houston Rockets tonight? Will Andre Iguodala and Klay Thompson be healthy enough to play? And so on from there.
But when the topic of the NFL’s new national anthem policy was raised by reporters in Kerr’s routine media session, the always-outspoken Warriors coach posited a far more meaningful question: Why are commissioner Roger Goodell and the football owners who voted for the change so determined to divide the country?
“I think it’s just typical of the NFL,” Kerr began. “They’re just playing to their fanbase, basically trying to use the anthem as fake patriotism, nationalism, scaring people. It’s idiotic. But that’s how the NFL has handled their business. I’m proud to be in a league that understands patriotism in America is about free speech, about peacefully protesting. And I think our leadership in the NBA understands that when the NFL players were kneeling, they were kneeling to protest police brutality, to protest racial inequality.
“They weren’t disrespecting the flag or the military. But our president decided to make it about that and the NFL followed suit, pandered to their fanbase, created this hysteria. This is kind of what’s wrong with our country right now. People in high places are trying to divide us, divide loyalties, make this about the flag as if the flag is something other than what it really is. It’s a a representation of what we’re about, which is diversity, peaceful protests, abilities, right to free speech. It’s really ironic, actually.”
While the NFL previously had an anthem policy that was difficult to enforce, the introduction of a league-wide policynow means that teams can be fined if players don’t stand for the anthem. Players are allowed to stay in the locker room during the anthem if they so choose.
Yet while the NBA is rightly seen as the most progressive among the major sports leagues, the truth is that there’s an anthem rule in pro basketball, too. The rule, which has been in place since before commissioner Adam Silver began working in the league office a quarter century ago, mandates that players and coaches “stand in a dignified posture” during the anthem.
This issue was front and center in late September, when the league sent a memo to general managers and team presidents that included a reminder of the rule.
“The NBA has a rule that players, coaches and trainers stand respectfully for the anthem,” NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum wrote. “The league office will determine how to deal with any possible instance in which a player, coach or trainer does not stand for the anthem. (Teams do not have the discretion to waive this rule).”
Yet when it comes to the dynamic between a league and its players, the parallels between the NFL and NBA begin and end with the existence of an anthem rule. Silver has fostered an immense level of trust from stars and role players alike, with both sides consistently working together to spark positive change when it comes to social issues.
“Adam and the league’s leadership, we feel like we’re partners,” Kerr added. “Players, coaches, management, league management, we feel like we’re all partners. I’m really proud of our players around the league for really being community leaders. Being outspoken for good, for change that we need.
“ … I think (the NBA) evolved over time. When I came into the league, I don’t think social issues were at the forefront of society. I think we were at a better place in terms of what was happening in the world. I think we were more united. I think the country has been divided over the last decade or so, or maybe since 9-11. Since that time, I think the league and the players have grown closer in terms of becoming partners and trying to improve communities. I think (former commissioner) David Stern had a lot to do with that and I think Adam Silver has really taken that leadership mantle and made it a priority.”