Athletes demonstrating during the national anthem has been one of the biggest stories in sports in recent months. The Los Angeles Lakers have interlocked their arms before games while the anthem is performed, while numerous NFL players have kneeled during the song.
Former Lakers guard Kobe Bryant has said before that he would kneel for the anthem — despite the fact that the NBA would fine him for doing so — and he has also fired back at President Donald Trump’s comments on the anthem demonstrations on Twitter.
Bryant shared more of his thoughts on the demonstrations in a recent sit down with Eric Chemi of CNBC:
“I think there’s a time where you stand up and you make your point, and then after that you go about the business of not having it deter from playing the games,” Bryant told CNBC this week. “You still have to play a game, right?”
He noted that “it’s important to make a statement” and that it can continue in many different ways. “It’s important to respect the value our country and great nation have been built on, which is freedom of speech.”
So far, no athletes have been boycotting games as part of an anthem-related demonstration, so it’s clear that all of them still seem to understand that games are going to continue to be played.
Bryant is right, though, that everyone has freedom of speech, or in this case movement. The NBA can punish players for not standing for the anthem, but it can’t stop them from doing it or believing the protests are necessary.
It’s unknown what the punishment would be for a player demonstrating in a way the NBA wasn’t okay with, and it sounds like Bryant is supportive of any athlete wishing to do so, whether or not the league agrees with him.