While professional sports leagues try to figure out how to deal with their athletes who use the national anthem as a time to protest, the NBA is making it clear to its players that they will stand throughout the song.
According to ESPN’s Zach Lowe, NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum sent a memo to all 30 teams that they will find other ways to address police brutality and reforming the criminal justice system outside of kneeling or locking arms during the national anthem.
In the memo, Tatum instructs teams that “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.”
Tatum states further that individual teams “do not have the discretion to waive” the rule that players, coaches, and staff should stand during the national anthem. The league can discipline anyone who violates this rule, but doesn’t go into detail of what the punishment might be.
Instead of protesting during the anthem, however, Tatum suggests that teams deliver a pregame address before every team’s first home game this season as a way to get their thoughts across to their fans in this volatile political climate.
While Colin Kaepernick is credited with beginning the recent wave of protests during the national anthem in the sports world, Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf was suspended by the NBA, in 1996, while playing for the Denver Nuggets for his refusal to stand during the national anthem, calling the American flag a “symbol of oppression.” His protest cost him $31,707 per game that he was suspended. He ended up working out a deal with the NBA that he would stand for the anthem, but look downward and recite prayers.