Pope Praises NBA Players for Demanding Racial Justice

5 players met Pope Francis at the Vatican
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 23, 2020 6:55 PM CST
Pope Meets NBA Players, Praises Calls for Justice
Pope Francis celebrates Mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020.   (Vincenzo Pinto/Pool via AP)

Pope Francis met with NBA players at the Vatican on Monday, lauding them as “champions" and saying he supported their work on social justice. The five players—Marco Belinelli, Sterling Brown, Jonathan Isaac, Kyle Korver, and Anthony Tolliver—were joined in the delegation by three NBA players' union executives. "We're here because, frankly, we're inspired by the work that you do globally," Roberts told the pope during the meeting in the papal library. The union said the players spoke about their "individual and collective efforts addressing social and economic injustice and inequality occurring in their communities." Belinelli addressed the pope in Italian, and the group presented the pope with a commemorative basketball, a union-produced book highlighting efforts players have taken, and an Orlando Magic jersey, the AP reports.

"The pope had important words for us: We need to continue to be united, to operate as brothers, like a team, and to set an example for the younger generations," Belinelli tweeted. Roberts said that Francis sought the meeting with the players, and that it demonstrates the influence of their platforms. Brown, in his remarks to the pope, told him about what he, Korver, and the other Milwaukee Bucks went through in the NBA's restart bubble—particularly when they decided to sit out a playoff game against Orlando in response to the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin. “It was raw and emotional for our team," Brown told the pope. The audience was held days before a book comes out in which Francis supports demands for racial justice, specifically the actions taken following the killing of George Floyd.

(Read more Pope Francis stories.)

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