76ers Prevent Acts of Protest

uss-nimitz-basketball-silhouettes-sea-69773Protests against racial discrimination and police brutality have increased steadily over the past few years. In mid-2016, they began spreading to sports fields, most famously with Colin Kaepernick’s decision to sit during the playing of the national anthem. The San Francisco 49er explained that he would not “stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color”. Although Kaepernick’s protest was met with disapproval from some, many people—including other professional athletes—applauded his desire to effect much-needed social change.

Many expected the protests to continue in the 2016-2017 NBA season, which tipped off last week. Some players have decided to stand with crossed arms during the playing of the anthem, but that has largely been the extent to which NBA athletes have protested. Such displays have been fairly uncontroversial.

The NBA, which requires that players stand during the anthem, has been influential in keeping protests from reaching the same levels they did in the NFL. Individual teams seem to be trying to prevent controversy as well. Last week, R&B singer Sevyn Streeter was scheduled to sing the national anthem for the Philadelphia 76ers’ opening game. Minutes before Streeter was supposed to enter the court, the 76ers decided not to allow her to sing because she was wearing a shirt bearing the slogan “We Matter”. The 76ers organization stated that it “encourages meaningful actions to drive social change”. However, it also indicated that it desired a move from “symbolic gestures to action”.

The 76ers’ decision has, along with the policies of the NBA as a whole, ignited serious debate about the importance of symbolic protests. Are they simply creating division without ever producing genuine change? Or are they a powerful way to highlight significant social issues? Does stifling protests lead us to accept injustice more easily?

Categories: Sports


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