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Utah Jazz Players Kneel During National Anthem Prior To Tipping Off Against New Orleans Pelicans

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Players on the Utah Jazz took a knee during the national anthem before the team’s game against the New Orleans Pelicans.

The Jazz faced the Pelicans on Thursday, July 30, at Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida.

Minutes before the start of the game, both teams stepped on the court wearing shirts that featured the phrase “Black Lives Matter.”

During the pregame national anthem, players and coaches from the Jazz and Pelicans kneeled on the court next to a “Black Lives Matter” floor decal. NBA officials for the contest joined the teams in kneeling.

“We’ve had numerous conversations, both as a staff and the players independently, and then our entire group together. So, I think, you know, we support our players are anxious to participate, along with them,” Jazz head coach Quin Snyder said before the game. “It’s so important at this point for us to be unified, and to be able to peacefully protest many of the critical things that are going on in the country right now. So tonight, there’s an opportunity to do that and to continue to draw and bring awareness to many of the challenges in terms of racial and social justice.”

It was the first NBA basketball game in four and a half months. Utah last played on March 9 against the Toronto Raptors. On March 11, the Jazz were scheduled to play the Oklahoma City Thunder. The game was postponed seconds before the two teams were slated to tip-off after Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus disease, COVID-19.

Shortly after Utah’s game in OKC was postponed, the NBA announced that the 2019-20 season was suspended.

Months later, the Jazz are playing in the league’s first game back amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“I think it’ll be something that we’ll look back on. Not only you know our game in Oklahoma City and being in the locker room but all the things that came with that,” Snyder recently said. “Then the opportunity to be a part of the first game upon return. I do think retrospectively that we’ll look back and understand that there’s a significance there.”

“This was a pandemic,” Gobert said one day prior to the Jazz vs. Pelicans game. “Sports got shut down. People lost family members or their lives. And now the NBA put something together so we can come back and play in a safe environment. I think we are very excited to be back on the court at the highest level.”

NBA and social justice efforts

During the months since the league’s hiatus started, NBA players, including members of the Jazz, have participated in social justice movements such as Black Lives Matter, protests after the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others.

In addition, the league and the National Basketball Players Association discussed ways to use the restart of the 2019-20 season to further social justice efforts.

Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell and other players recently met with NBA officials to “address the game’s role in facilitating solutions to the persistent inequities plaguing the Black community.”

“When I become old and I retire, I want my kids and my grandkids, everybody in my family to know this is what I stood for,” Mitchell recently said. “I stand for something and it’s bigger than just playing basketball and making money.”

The NBPA released a statement following the meeting and said that “while specific plans were not finalized, there was broad alignment about the direction and priorities of the efforts, especially with regard to supporting players’ activism and leadership.”

“Just as we are fighting a pandemic, which is impacting communities and people of color more than anyone else, we are being reminded that there are wounds in our country that have never healed,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver wrote in the memo.

One way players were able to use the league’s start as a platform for creating awareness in relation to social justice was by changing the last name on the back of their jerseys into a league-approved message.

Utah Jazz players and social justice messages

All 16 of Utah’s players that are participating in the season’s reopening are using their jerseys for social justice messages.

In total, 11 different phrases will be used by Jazz players.

Mitchell chose “Say Her Name” in honor of Breonna Taylor.

Gobert wore a No. 27 jersey with “Equality” in place of his last name.

Ingles’ jersey will say “Ally” throughout the team’s run in Orlando.

Mitchell also took the opportunity to use his platform in the league’s first game by wearing a special colorway of the new edition of his signature Adidas shoes, D.O.N Issue #2.

The Jazz guard’s shoes were black, gold, and white and featured the phrases “Ready For Change” and “Say Their Names.”

Prior to the start of the game, Mitchell was photographed as he stepped onto the court wearing a face mask and a bulletproof vest.

Utah Jazz in NBA Restart

The Jazz will finish the 2019-20 regular season with an eight-game schedule, including the first game against the Pelicans.

After the eight seeding games, 16 teams (eight from each conference) will participate in the NBA Playoffs. All games will be played at Disney World and no fans will be in attendance.

Utah’s game against the New Orleans is broadcast on TNT, AT&T SportsNet, and 97.5 FM.