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NBA Sends Memo Reiterating that Players Must Stand for National Anthem

League suggests “message of unity” instead.

2017 NBA Draft Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

The NBA sent out a memo late Friday reminding players and coaches must stand for the national anthem, suggesting alternate ways to send pre-game messages to their audience. Zach Lowe of ESPN reports that deputy commissioner Mark Tatum’s missive reinforced the policy, which is not a change, by making clear that the league office would “determine how to deal with” instances of non-standing and that NBA teams “do not have the discretion to waive” the rule.

Lowe details some of the alternate avenues suggested in the memo should players or teams want to express themselves:

In the memo, Tatum suggests teams might address the current political climate by having players and coaches give a joint pregame address. "This could include a message of unity and how the team is committed to bringing the community together this season," the memo states. The memo also suggests teams might prepare a video tribute or public service announcement featuring "team leadership speaking about the issues they care about."

Though not always related to political activism, players have set precedent for not standing on the floor during the anthem. Portland Trail Blazers All-Star Brandon customarily waited in an entrance tunnel while the song was played. He affirmed that this was a personal habit rather than a public statement. A decade earlier guard Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf was far more direct, leaving the floor during the anthem as a form of protest. The NBA fined and suspended Abdul-Rauf. He eventually agreed to stand with his head bowed in prayer.

Lowe’s article has much more to say on the issue, including more suggested responses from the league and the current position of the Players Union.

[ed. Please keep any discussion on these matters in the comment section as rational and civil as possible.]