The NBA issued a memo to teams late Friday reminding teams of the rule that requires players and coaches to stand for the national anthem, according to ESPN’s Zach Lowe. The memo instead listed other ways that players could support fellow athletes who have been protesting racial injustice and police brutality in the NFL and other sports.
Among those reasons, deputy commissioner Mark Tatum — who distributed the memo — suggested teams could give a “joint pregame address” including “a message of unity and how the team is committed to bringing the community together this season,” per Lowe. The memo also suggests a video tribute or public service announcement.
On Thursday, Adam Silver stated to reporters that he expects players and coaches to stand for the national anthem. In the memo, the NBA reiterates that individual teams “do not have the discretion to waive” the anthem rule. The exact wording of the rule is as follows:
2) Players, coaches, and trainers are to stand and line up in a dignified posture along the sidelines or on the foul line during the playing of the National Anthem.
Last week, Stephen Curry said at Warriors media day that he did not plan on visiting the White House if invited, a tradition for reigning champions in professional sports. President Donald Trump responded by disinviting Curry, and LeBron James proceeded to call him a “bum” in a following tweet. That weekend, Trump also attacked the NFL, calling players who kneeled “sons of bitches” and even advocating for a rule that forced players to stand.
The NBA has generally developed a reputation as being more socially conscious than any other major professional sports league. (Though we should note that the WNBA has led the charge on racial injustice and other serious issues.) Silver was especially lauded for his quick and strong treatment of Donald Sterling after a racist tape leaked.
Silver has also long encouraged players to address issues that matter to them, sending out at least two memos this week encouraging teams and players in ways they can speak out. However, this is the first time the NBA has addressed their anthem rule, and for now, they’re sticking by it.