New York Knicks management supports its players expressing their opinions on social issues. But general manager Steve Mills says he hopes players can now move beyond the symbolic gestures of protest to work “together to make a difference.”
“I’ve spoken to Carmelo [Anthony] a number of times about this issue, and I think he’s an example of guys who have been outspoken about issues and the community coming together. But also rather than (making) symbolic gestures, (he’s been) moving forward and trying to have a dialogue and moving forward to make things happen,” Mills said Friday at the Knicks’ season-opening news conference.
“And so I think we respect our players and their ability and right to express their opinion. But we hope as a group we can get past that part of that and actually come together to make a difference with some of the issues that are out there. So that’s the conversation we’ve had with him and we’ll have with the other players as well.”
Mills, Phil Jackson and coach Jeff Hornacek have talked to players about ways to express their opinions.
“We want to do something that’s unified and representative of who we are. We want [it] to be respectful in its own way to our citizens and people around, our family,” Jackson said.
Anthony in July called on his fellow athletes to use their platforms to speak out on social issues in the wake of the shooting deaths of two African-American men and five Dallas police officers. He also hosted a town hall meeting in Los Angeles to discuss the social unrest.
More recent, Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers has drawn attention to the issue of racial oppression and inequality in the United States by refusing to stand during the national anthem before games.
Many have wondered whether NBA players will make similar statements during the anthem. None of the Knicks players have spoken publicly about potentially kneeling during the anthem. Players
have been seeking guidance from the union over the last several weeks in the wake of protests during the national anthem in the NFL.
It is against NBA rules to not stand for the anthem. The league is not currently planning to change the rule, sources told ESPN’s Brian Windhorst. But NBA commissioner Adam Silver has supported players’ desire to make social commentary in the past.
Hornacek said he has spoken to players about the issue and they’ve expressed a desire to effect positive change together, rather than solely expressing their opinion about the recent social unrest.
“I think they’re all kind of in that same agreement that the awareness is out there now, and what can we do to further it and actually try to do something about it and make it better,” Hornacek said. “So they seem to be past the stage of taking a stance and making awareness. They want to help. It’s great to see the players think like that.”
Added Jackson: “We are trying to measure what our players want to do. We want them to do something that they all feel genuine about. We have five or six guys who are international, depending on which side of the fence Joakim [Noah] wants to sit on. So we have a disparate group of guys where some of them are involved in this, some of them are not. So I’ve asked for a little bit of a consultation and we’ll talk about it at some point as a team.”