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Why it’s the perfect time for NBA players to use their platform to protest

I would say the NBA season is back — and, technically it is — but for me, it never left.

Summer league in Vegas, pro-am’s, preseason, and the blockbuster trades kept me fully engaged more than I could have hoped. And it all comes together tonight.

The Boston Celtics visit the defending Eastern Conference champion Cleveland Cavaliers, and the Houston Rockets go out to the Bay Area to face the reigning NBA champion Golden State Warriors.

There are too many storylines to know where to start.

Will LeBron play or will he hold off on the dramatics of facing former teammate Kyrie on the excuse of his ankle? How will Harden and Paul match up against the defending champs? Is Derrick Rose back in MVP form?

But there’s one storyline in particular that holds a little more weight: what the athletes will do during the anthem.

As much as we want to separate sports and politics, they’ve been intertwined with each other and instrumental in the fight against racial injustice for years.

It’s not always comfortable, but it serves a purpose. And right now sports and politics are at a head like no time before.

President Trump took time out his schedule to issue a full-on verbal assault on knee-taking NFL players during a speech in Huntsville. He called any player who knelt during the anthem a “son of a bitch” and said league owners should fire any offender.

This of course stems from the NFL blackballing Colin Kaepernick after he decided to quietly kneel during the national anthem to bring awareness to the disproportionate rate that Black lives are taken by police officers in this country.

But now that the President has taken the issue personally it’s caused a reaction that’s rippled across the sports world.

On one hand, it’s become an act of solidarity among players in other sports to stand up to Trump by taking a knee, but on the other, it’s made some owners tighten policy.

U.S. national team star Megan Rapinoe became the first soccer player to kneel. Oakland Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell became the first Major League Baseball player to kneel, and Tampa Bay Lightning player J.T. Brown became the first NHL player to protest police brutality during the national anthem.

But Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones banned his players from kneeling, saying players who “disrespect the flag,” won’t take the field.

“…If there is anything that is disrespectful to the flag then we will not play,” Jones said to The Dallas Morning News.

There is work still to be done.

Despite league commissioner Adam Silver’s memo back in September stating that protesting was against league rules, the NBA has been known as the most progressive league in the country.

Three years ago, then-Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling was ousted after an audio tape of him making racist remarks was revealed.

Two years ago you saw the likes of Kobe, Derrick Rose, Kevin Garnett, and others wearing “I Can’t Breathe” shirts, which is more than any NFL player did.

Not to mention 35.1 percent of “professional positions” held in Silver’s office are held by people of color and 38.8 percent by women, according to the NBA. That’s the highest in pro sports, by far.

And although Adam Silver is right —  the rulebook indeed states NBA players must “stand and line up in a dignified posture” during the anthem — it’s up to the NBA players to use their power to stand up to that rule.

There are some indications that they might.

J.R. Smith did not take kindly to Silver’s statements and when asked if he’d protest the anthem, LeBron said his voice is more important than his knee, and to his defense, he’s been vocal as anyone in his position.

The NBA players should take a knee in solidarity to show the President that he has no choice but to take seriously the issues affecting the African American community.

Being that the NBA is majority black, the reigning NBA Champions have decided to skip the White House visit, and the popularity around the sport is at an all-time high, this has to be the time for NBA stars to take a stand.

Despite Jerry Jone’s decree, the NFL announced it has no plans to force players to stand during the national anthem. This establishes a precedent for the NBA players to start a strike of their own.

Kneel, lock arms, or sit, there must be a continued effort made to carry on the burden the NFL players and even some ESPN commentators have carried in order for these messages to be heard.

This season is shaping up to be one of the most exciting in years, I’m just hoping it’s one of the most impactful, too.