An NBA rule prohibits kneeling during the national anthem or any pre-game ceremonies, so members of the Cleveland Cavaliers, led by star LeBron James, linked arms and sported political attire ahead of Wednesday night's season opener.
LeBron James has been open about his goal of bringing the kind of social activism, seen in the National Football League, to the NBA, telling reporters at the Cavaliers' media day last week that he was working to find a way to incorporate some form of political statement into his play, even if NBA rules don't allow pre-game protests.
"I will in my voice, I will in my passion, I will in my money, I will in my resources to my youth and my inner city and outside my inner city to let these kids know that there is hope, there is greater walks of life, and not one individual, no matter if it's the president of the United States ... can stop your dreams from becoming a reality," James said, according to Sports Illustrated.
But instead of taking a knee during the national anthem, the Cavaliers linked arms in a show of team unity, similar to what some NFL teams are doing, now that taking a knee has become a league liability.
The Cavs link arms during the national anthem before tonight's season opener vs. the Celtics pic.twitter.com/VY6wFzE4CP— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) October 18, 2017
Their opponents, the Boston Celtics, did not make a similar demonstration.
LeBron James also wore specially designed Nike shoes for the occasion — a pair of black Nike high tops with "Equality" printed in gold letters on the back.
The Cavaliers star later took to social media to explain that he views social activism as an important component of being a public figure, but unlike many of the kneelers in the NFL, LeBron James says he plans on financing some of the changes he believes in himself.
The star already has his own foundation, working with underprivileged youth in Cleveland, and says he'll expand that network to include non-profits designed to build infrastructure.
The NBA did not comment on the Cavaliers' demonstration except to reiterate that the league would not tolerate en masse kneeling during the national anthem. "We have a rule that requires our players to stand for the anthem," NBA commissioner Adam Silver told media. "It's been our 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."