When asked whether the NBA would allow players to kneel when the league resumes at Walt Disney World in July, commissioner Adam Silver asserted that the league has rules in place that prohibit such demonstrations, but also suggested cases will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.
"We've had a rule on our books that goes back to the early 80s, that precedes even David Stern's tenure as commissioner, that calls for players to stand in a line at attention during the national anthem," Silver said in a TIME100 Talks interview on Tuesday, according to The New York Times' Sopan Deb. "I also understand the role of protest, and I think that we'll deal with that situation when it presents itself."
Although the games will be closed to fans, and television broadcasts typically omit showing the national anthem, the NBA still intends to play "The Star-Spangled Banner" before all games, as well as "O Canada" before Toronto Raptors games, a source told The New York Times' Marc Stein.
The kneeling gesture rose to prominence during the 2016 NFL season, when then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick did so in protest of police brutality and racism. While athletes across the sports world joined the movement, Silver and the NBA league office sent a memo to teams in 2017 reaffirming the expectation that players continue to stand during the anthems or face possible discipline.
In the wake of nationwide protests following the George Floyd killing on May 25, the league committed to prioritizing social justice causes for the remainder of the season, including the possibility of players featuring statements on their jerseys.
Still, some powerful voices within the NBA have publicly encouraged players to kneel; Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said his team's players had his full support and he hoped to join them in solidarity.
"If they were taking a knee and they were being respectful, I'd be proud of them," Cuban said on ESPN's "Outside the Lines" on June 18. "Hopefully I'd join them, because I think we've learned a lot since 2017. I think we've evolved as a country."