The NFL and the NBA have different approaches to the national anthem.
As the NFL is embroiled in controversy over players kneeling during the anthem, the league has steadfastly insisted that players have the right not to stand and will not be disciplined if they choose to exercise that right.
The NBA, meanwhile, has reiterated that players must stand for the anthem. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said the league’s longstanding rule requiring players to stand for the anthem isn’t going anywhere.
“On the anthem specifically, we have a rule that requires our players to stand for the anthem. It’s been a rule as long as I’ve been involved with the league, and my expectation is that our players will continue to stand for the anthem,” Silver said.
What’s unclear is what the NBA would do if a player chooses to violate that rule. In 1996 the NBA suspended Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf for refusing to stand for the anthem. Abdul-Rauf quickly relented and stood for the anthem while saying a silent prayer. After President Trump’s comments kicked off the latest anthem controversy last week, however, two of the NBA’s biggest stars, Steph Curry and LeBron James, offered comments critical of Trump. If those two stars were to kneel in protest, it’s highly unlikely that Silver would suspend them.
So far, the NBA has managed to avoid controversy. All it takes is one player to defy Silver’s orders, and the controversy will spread to basketball.