President Donald Trump has strongly denounced athletes who choose to kneel during the playing of the U.S. national anthem and had recently commented once again on the issue. In response, New Orleans Pelicans sharpshooter J.J. Redick put Trump on blast for those remarks on Thursday, stating his belief that nobody in the National Basketball Association cares whether or not the president watches its product.
Redick’s statement came after the league officially resumed its 2019-20 season from within a bubble environment at the Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World in Florida. Redick’s Pelicans faced Rudy Gobert and the Utah Jazz in the opening contest of the season restart, which was preceded by players and coaches from both teams kneeling in unison as musician Jon Batiste’s rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” was played.
“First of all, I don’t think anybody in the NBA cares if President Trump watches basketball. I couldn’t care less,” Redick told Yahoo! basketball insider Chris Haynes following his team’s two-point loss to the Jazz. “As far as his base, I think regardless of the specificity of tweeting about the NBA, every tweet of his is meant to divide, every tweet is meant to incite, every tweet is meant to embolden his base. So [last week] was no different.”
Redick referenced a post made by Trump through his Twitter account on July 21 which served as a condemnation of kneeling as being disrespectful to both America and its flag.
“Looking forward to live sports,” Trump stated. “But any time I witness a player kneeling during the National Anthem, a sign of great disrespect for our Country and our Flag, the game is over for me!”
Thursday night featured the first official contests between NBA clubs since operations were suspended in March after Gobert became its first player to test positive for COVID-19. In addition to the strict protocols being enforced to provide a safe competitive environment, the league’s return was also made possible by its willingness to embrace the Black Lives Matter movement and worldwide calls for an end to racial injustice.
As part of the league’s push to further the equality cause, the majority of its players are wearing social justice messages on the backs of their jerseys instead of their names during the restart. For his part, Redick’s jersey nameplate reads “Say Their Names,” which references Black victims of police brutality.
Meanwhile, Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James shared his hope that he and his colleagues had made Colin Kaepernick proud with their actions on Thursday. The former NFL quarterback was the first athlete to kneel in protest of racial injustice in 2016.