clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Read the NBA's complete memo on community activism and the anthem rule

SB Nation has obtained the full memo released by the NBA.

2017 US Open Tennis Championships - Day 9 Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

The NBA league office sent a memo to teams late Friday with expectations and ideas for community activism among players and coaches. SB Nation has obtained that memo in full.

Last weekend, the issue hit a crescendo when President Donald Trump called NFL players who protested during the national anthem “sons of bitches.” His comments led to a wave of NFL players who knelt or linked arms during the anthem to protest racial injustice and police brutality. Trump also disinvited Stephen Curry from the traditional White House visit after Curry stated that he wasn’t planning on going. This led to many NBA players, most notably LeBron James, speaking out against Trump through social media and at media day.

The NBA’s memo, distributed by deputy commissioner Mark Tatum, outlines several different manners in which teams could express social activism. The ideas stem from the NBA’s Board of Governors meeting on Thursday, rather than the NBA itself. At the meeting, the owners discussed at length social activism and the way teams could handle it in a unified manner.

The memo does restate the league’s official stance on anthem protests, although it is not the focal point of the memo. The NBA has a rule that requires all players and coaches to stand during the anthem.

The NBA has generally been lauded for its social consciousness, although its response last weekend in support of Stephen Curry could have said more. It falls behind the WNBA, however, which has been at the forefront of protesting racial injustice.

The league’s full memo is below.


As a follow-up to our discussions at this week’s Board of Governors meetings, this document outlines suggested steps each team could take as we prepare for the start of the season and continue to develop impactful community programs.


If you have not done so already, we suggest organizing discussions between players, coaches, general managers and ownership to hear the players’ perspectives.

One approach would be for team leadership to review existing team and league initiatives and encourage players to share their thoughts and ideas about them. Following those conversations, teams could develop plans prior to the start of the regular season for initiatives that players and senior leadership could participate in, such as:

- Hosting Community Conversations with youth, parents, community leaders and law enforcement about the challenges we face and our shared responsibility to create positive change.

- Creating “Building Bridges Through Basketball” programs that use the game of basketball to bring people together and deepen important bonds of trust and respect between young people, mentors, community leaders, law enforcement and other first responders.

- Highlighting the importance of mentoring with the goal of adding 50,000 new mentors to support young people through our PSA campaign.

- Engaging thought leaders and partners. A variety of experts, speakers and partner organizations are available to players and teams as you continue these conversations and develop programming.

- Establishing new and/or enhancing ongoing team initiatives and partnerships in the areas of criminal justice reform, economic empowerment and civic engagement.


As we approach opening week, each team could explore ways to use their first home game as an opportunity to demonstrate your commitment to the NBA’s core values of equality, diversity, inclusion and serve as a unifying force in the community, including:

- A joint address to fans featuring a player or coach prior to the National Anthem. This could include a message of unity and how the team is committed to bringing the community together this season.

- A video tribute or PSA featuring players, community leaders, faith leaders and team leadership speaking about the issues they care about and photos from past community events.


- These are difficult and nuanced issues.

- We support and encourage players to express their views on matters that are important to them.

- The NBA has a rule that players, coaches and trainers stand respectfully for the anthem. 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).

- Our team's focus remains on unity and collective action that leads to meaningful change in society. The players have embraced their roles in those efforts and we are proud of the work they do in our communities.

- We believe sports are a unifier and this is an opportunity for the NBA to once again lead by its core values of equality, inclusion and unity and to bridge divides and bring people together.