The NBA rule has been on the books for a while, whereas the NFL has no guidelines.
With the NFL’s controversy over players’ national anthem protests still raging on with no end or mutually agreeable solution in sight, the NBA is making sure that the same no-win scenario doesn’t befall its league as the season’s tip-off nears.
Unlike the NFL, the NBA’s rules do include language requiring players to stand for the national anthem, which allows the league’s policy to remain, at least optically, uncolored by current events.
Reiterating that language, the NBA sent out a memo, which was leaked to ESPN, underlining the policy and possible discipline for any players or coaches who don’t abide.
The memo was issued to all teams from the office of deputy commissioner Mark Tatum, and aimed to remind organizations they “do not have the discretion to waive,” individually or collectively, the rule, which is stated below in a screenshot.
Tatum’s missive echoes the recent comments by NBA commissioner Adam Silver, who historically has maintained a progressive stance both in the league’s policymaking and in its hands-off approach to players speaking out on social issues. "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 at a league meeting on Friday, the same day the memo was issued.
The memo reportedly suggests that teams can comment on current affairs, should they so choose, with a joint statement prior to their first home games.
While the pre-existing rule requiring players to stand during the national anthem may save the league from criticism surrounding a reactionary policy, it doesn’t necessarily mean that players will obey. For that matter, it also doesn’t mean that discipline is imminent in a league in which 74.4% of its players are black.