From their first drive through Florida to the NBA’s Orlando bubble, their team bus emblazoned with the words Black Lives Matter, the Toronto Raptors made it clear their NBA title defence would be about more than basketball.
On Saturday night against the Los Angeles Lakers in their first official game of the restart, they ensured that would continue.
During the playing of both “O Canada” and “The Star Spangled Banner,” members of the Raptors took a knee to protest racial injustice.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) August 2, 2020
Raptors and Lakers kneeling, arms linked, for both the US and Canadian national anthems.
Frank Vogel and Nick Nurse (linked) shifted at center court — Nurse linked with the Lakers, Vogel with the Raptors.
Cameras also catch LeBron James singing O Canada.
— Eric Smith (@Eric__Smith) August 2, 2020
The focus of this restarted NBA season, interrupted for more than four-and-a-half months by the coronavirus pandemic, has been to continue shining light on the need for racial justice and an end to police brutality. NBA teams are kneeling, often linking arms, for the pre-recorded national anthem along a sideline where “Black Lives Matter” is painted.
But this marked the first opportunity the Raptors had to make their message clear, and they did, both during the anthem and before they even entered the building.
Members of the Raptors — including team president Masai Ujiri — arrived at Saturday’s game wearing shirts that read Say Their Names, I Am Human and Black Lives Matter.
“I think basketball could be a distraction but we’re all firm that we want to use it as a vehicle to spread awareness and continue to just give a positive message to everyone out there,” Pascal Siakam said recently. “So, like we said, there are bigger issues in the world right now. And obviously we need basketball, and basketball is something that’s really vital for us and for everyone.
“But at the same time we just can’t forget about the task at hand and the things that are way more important than basketball and the things that are way more important than us.”