The Lakers locked arms during the national anthem before their exhibition opener at Honda Center in Anaheim. Across the court, the Sacramento Kings did the same.
The move follows national-anthem protests that began with San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who first sat for “The Star-Spangled Banner” and has since knelt during the song in order to protest racial injustice in the United States.
Several players and Coach Luke Walton have emphasized looking beyond the anthem and focusing on what they can do to effect change in other ways.
“I know a lot of the media runs with what happens during the national anthem, which is a very big subject because it’s touchy from both sides,” Walton said. “To me it’s about what kind of change can we make. And that comes from getting with organizations that are in action, doing stuff in the community and giving our time and money and whatever else we can do to help this problem.”
The Lakers discussed the subject as a team before training camp began and agreed that any gesture they made would be done together. Both Walton and General Manager Mitch Kupchak said they would stand behind the players’ decision on what they’d do. Similarly, the NBA and players association sent a memo before training camps lending their support to players who wanted to make a gesture.
“We fully support our players in exercising their right of expression over an issue that is so important,” read a statement from the team that was released minutes after the anthem. “We also applaud the NBA and the NBA Players Assn. 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.”