NBA player protests: Jazz, Pelicans kneel for anthem, wear custom social justice attire

As expected, the first NBA game in more than four months featured pregame demonstrations from players in support of a nationwide protest movement against the excessive use of police force against Black people.

Every member of the Jazz and Pelicans on Thursday evening knelt for the national anthem, following the main template for athlete protests in the U.S. that began in the NFL with Colin Kaepernick in 2016.

Players on each team also donned messages on their jerseys supporting equality and societal improvements. Phrases included “Education Reform,” “Say Their Names” and “Black Lives Matter.” Utah’s Donovan Mitchell also wore “Black Lives Matter” shoes.

MORE: LeBron James decides not to put message on jersey

Protests in the U.S. began in response to the May 25 killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police but have continued as part of a broader movement against systemic racism.

Athletes have spoken up more than ever in recent memory, using their platforms to become activists. The NBA on Thursday joined MLB, NASCAR and Formula 1 as sports to address the Black Lives Matter movement before a live event this year.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver has generally been supportive of players taking stances on social justice issues, at least during this tumultuous time 

MORE: Silver hinted he’d allow kneeling despite it being against NBA rules

Jazz vs. Pelicans marked the first of two games Thursday in the Orlando bubble to mark the NBA’s return to action. The Lakers and Clippers are scheduled to play in the second game..

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