The NBA’s return to play Thursday was filled with social justice messages, including a unified display of kneeling by Jazz and Pelicans personnel during the national anthem prior to Game 1. Charles Barkley would have been OK with someone standing.
“The national anthem means different things to different people,” Barkley said on TNT’s “NBA Tip-Off” show. “I’m glad these guys are all unified, but if people don’t kneel, they’re not a bad person. I want to make that perfectly clear.” Barkley added that no one should be “vilified” for standing.
ESPN NBA analyst Jay Williams supported Barkley’s stance on standing:
I firmly stand by what Charles Barkley just said.. if you choose not to kneel for the national anthem, you are NOT a bad person and you should NOT get vilified.
Kneeling for the anthem is against NBA rules, but commissioner Adam Silver announced Thursday that the rule would not be enforced, citing “unique circumstances.” Among those circumstances: People across the country have held protests over the past two months after George Floyd died at the knee of a police officer in Minneapolis. NBA players, as part of their return to the court, are wearing such messages as “Black Lives Matter” and “Say Their Names” on the backs of their jerseys.
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And while kneeling and uniform letters are meant to keep issues of race in the spotlight, Barkley and fellow TNT panelist Shaquille O’Neal said Thursday that action is required, too, such as communicating with lawmakers and other people in power.