A lot has happened since the NBA abruptly suspended its season in March—and players delivered a powerful message when play resumed in Florida on Thursday night. Every player with the Utah Jazz and the New Orleans Pelicans wore a "Black Lives Matter" shirt and took a knee during the national anthem, joined by coaches and game officials, CNN reports.The Los Angeles Lakers and the Los Angeles Clippers did the same before their game, with many players linking arms and some, including LeBron James, raising a fist in the air. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said he respects "our teams’ unified act of peaceful protest for social justice and under these unique circumstances will not enforce our long-standing rule requiring standing during the playing of our national anthem," reports the AP.
The display of unity was widely praised, though Hall of Famer Charles Barkley said anybody who decides not to take a knee should not be attacked, Mediaite reports. "The National Anthem means different things to different people," he told Shaquille O'Neal during TNT's halftime show. "I'm glad these guys are all unified, but if people don't kneel, they’re not a bad person," he said. "I'm glad they had unity, but if we have a guy who doesn’t want to kneel because the anthem means something to him, he should not be vilified." The NBA returned with all players and coaches living in a "bubble" at Walt Disney World. The Lakers beat the Clippers 103-101 and the Jazz beat the Pelicans 106-104, with Rudy Gobert, the Jazz player whose positive COVID-19 test triggered the league shutdown, scoring the first basket of the restarted season. (Read more NBA stories.)