When LeBron James voiced his opinion on the topic of anthem kneeling last month, saying “My voice and what I do in my community is more powerful than getting on a knee,” he was speaking for the NBA masses.

In a league nearly three-fourths African American, where even NBA legend Bill Russell posted a picture recently of himself kneeling in support of the NFL players, this has been a popular stance. And while some players might kneel when the regular season starts Tuesday – either to raise continued awareness for racial injustice or to oppose the actions of President Trump – it’s unlikely we’ll see a widespread movement that’s anywhere near the level of the NFL. A significant part of the reason, as James hinted, has everything to do with the fact that players are maximizing the power of their platforms off the court during this divisive time.

“Everybody has the liberty of (kneeling), and they should (have that freedom),” Golden State Warriors star Steph Curry told USA TODAY Sports on Sunday in Oakland Calif., where he launched a newly refurbished gym and courts for kids and reiterated that he has no plans to kneel. “I think a lot has been said about how the NBA guys – and definitely the case in the NFL, too – are actually doing stuff on the back end and using their platforms and their connections and their networks and money to actually (make a difference).


“It feels good to have that kind of impact, to help actually create change in the ways that you can. … The attention needs to be on that, and how that’s impacting the community as opposed to 130 guys kneeling in the NFL. That’s great, but this is the stuff that matters and this is the stuff that can actually move the needle when it comes to impacting the next generation.”

The NBA, long seen as the most progressive sports league, has been navigating tricky waters of late.

When Commissioner Adam Silver chose during a press conference on Sept. 28 to highlight a league rule that says players must stand for the anthem, and when deputy commissioner Mark Tatum followed the next day with a memo to teams reminding them of the rule, it sent a surprising message that seemed to run counter to the league’s longstanding ethos. This is the league that ousted Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling for his racist rant and moved the 2017 All-Star Game out of Charlotte because of anti-LGBT laws.

But while there was some grumbling from players behind the scenes about the curious way in which the anthem rule reminders came from the league office, there was no public backlash.