As the NBA returned to action after play was suspended in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, NBA teams knelt and bowed their heads during the playing of the national anthem wore T-shirts that said "Black Lives Matter" on Thursday.
Game officials and coaches from the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers, New Orleans Pelicans and Utah Jazz, also joined the players and took a knee to protest against police brutality and racial injustice in the first game to be held in 140 days.
Lakers star Lebron James, who scored the winning shot that helped his team edge past the clippers 103-101, said, "The game of basketball has always been bigger than just the ball, the rim, 10 guys on the floor and referees. It's an opportunity to use this platform to spread a lot of positivity and love throughout the whole world."
Injustice Against "All People of Color"
Black Lives Matter was also written on the courts at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in the Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando, where the NBA plans to finish its season with 22 teams inside a bio-secure bubble.
James said that while there has been progress in the fight against systemic racism, the key was to maintain the momentum. "We want to keep our foot on the gas," he said. "We're dealing with a lot of racism, a lot of social injustice and a lot of police brutality, not only in my neighborhood and not only with Black people, but with all people of color."
Two Closely Contested Games
Some players had messages like "Equality," "Education Reform" and "Say Their Names" on the backs of their jerseys in place of their names. Athletes from around the world have united behind anti-racism protests sparked by the death of George Floyd, a Black man in police custody in Minneapolis in May.
In the first game, the Jazz came from behind to defeat the Pelicans 106-104 after the Pelicans' Brandon Ingram's three-pointer at the buzzer rimmed out. The games are being played without fans, but "virtual fans" appeared on LED screens wrapped around the court and a simulation of a crowd's cheers and jeers could be heard.
(With inputs from agencies)