The four NBA teams that played Thursday on the first night of the league’s restart protested during the national anthem. Every player and coach knelt as “The Star-Spangled Banner” played at the league’s bubble in Orlando, Florida, showing their support for the “Black Lives Matter” movement.

Players locked arms before the game between the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers while LeBron James raised his fist in the air. The same show of unity occurred right before the New Orleans Pelicans and Utah Jazz officially kicked off the return of basketball.

It marked the first time that NBA personnel have knelt during the anthem since former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick began the protest in 2016. A league rule stipulates that players must stand when the song is played.

“I respect our teams’ unified act of peaceful protest for social justice and under these unique circumstances will not enforce our long-standing rule requiring standing during the playing of our national anthem,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement.



What’s your purpose in life??? Create change, motivate and inspire others are some of mine! I just hope I continue to make y’all proud! Love you all! ❤️❤️❤️✊_✊_ #BlackLivesMatter #ThankYouKaep #JusticeForBreonnaTaylor_

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The words “Black Lives Matter” were displayed on the court for each game. Players wore “Black Lives Matter” shirts during the protest, and most chose to replace the name on the back of their jersey with a phrase promoting social justice.

Shortly after the first protest, Jazz center Rudy Gobert scored the first basket of the NBA’s restart. The All-Star also scored the final two points of the game, which were the difference in Utah’s two-point victory. Gobert’s positive COVID-19 test on March 11 forced the league to suspend play indefinitely and started a chain reaction that shut down the sports world.

Utah narrowly defeated New Orleans in the first contest. The Lakers edged the Clippers in the second game.

“The game of basketball has always been bigger than just a ball and a rim and 10 guys on the floor with referees. It’s an opportunity to use this platform to be able to spread a lot of positives, a lot of love throughout the course of the whole world,” James said after the game.

“We understand what’s going on in society right now and we’re using this NBA platform as the players, as the coaches, as organizations to continue to stand strong on that. This is a good start. This is a good start tonight. It’s great to have the NBA back and I hope our fans are proud of us tonight.”