Taking a Knee

While watching the first two games of the NBA Finals, I was struck by the fact that we’re not seeing the same controversy about National Anthem protests as we see in the NFL. So what’s the difference? It’s not like the NBA stars aren’t engaged in discussions about current events.

  • In 2014, NBA players took the floor wearing “I can’t breathe” tee shirts, calling attention to the choke-hold death of Eric Garner in New York.

  • The Golden State Warriors chose to take Washington DC kids to the African American Museum rather than visit President Trump in the White House.

  • When LeBron James gave his views on current events, he was asked by political commentator, Laura Ingraham to “Shut up and dribble.”

While there was much written and discussed about these incidents and others, most of what we hear from NBA management is supportive. Golden State Warrior Coach Steve Kerr and San Antonio Spur coach Greg Popovich have been outspoken in their support of the players’ right to express themselves.

On the other hand, as the NBA Playoffs were taking place, the NFL was making news announcing their new rule requiring players to either stand for the National Anthem or not come out of the dressing room. Former San Francisco 49er Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid have not been able to find jobs in the NFL since they chose to take knees during the National Anthem. Last October at the NFL Owners Meeting, Houston Texan owner Bob McNair said the league cannot allow “inmates running the prison” in regard to players’ national anthem protests.

It’s ironic that while the NBA also has a rule requiring the players to stand respectfully for the National Anthem, the players appear to be choosing not to challenge it. It’s my opinion that the NBA owners and management look to their players as business partners. The owners realize that both sides need each other for the league to prosper. I believe that NFL management looks at their players as commodities that can be replaced. While both leagues are making billions of dollars there seems to be a lot more anxiety and distrust in the NFL than the NBA.

Many of us believe professional sports is a fantasy land filled with well-paid celebrities. While there’s a lot of truth in that, there still needs to be a certain amount of cooperation within the franchises and leagues. To be successful, everyone needs to be pulling the rope in the same direction. I’d love to hear how this works in our daily lives. Please leave your comments on how cooperation works wherever you are in the employment hierarchy.

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