The Toronto Raptors will treat both national anthems as “one long song” ahead of their opening game of the NBA restart on Saturday, according to coach Nick Nurse.
Two days after every player and coach kneeled for “The Star-Spangled Banner” before a pair of games on opening night, the Raptors are expected to follow suit prior to their first game Saturday against the Los Angeles Lakers at Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando, Fla.
When asked about the Canadian anthem, Nurse pointed out that “we certainly have our issues with police brutality in Canada. We don’t want anyone to confuse that, it’s certainly an area Canada needs to work on as well.”
The images of dozens of players and staff kneeling with arms linked during Thursday’s U.S. anthem were powerful. Raptors guard Kyle Lowry, who was at the Los Angeles Clippers vs. Lakers game, called the moment “beautiful.”
Playing both the U.S. and Canadian anthems pre-game will create a different moment, Nurse said.
“(But) this isn’t about countries, this isn’t about the borders, to me it’s about continuing to shine the light on that we need to do better in (the) police brutality area, we need to do better in the systemic racism area,” the coach said. “That’s not just Canada, America, that’s a lot of places, so we treat that as one long song tomorrow.”
Major League Soccer kicked off its MLS is Back Tournament with a silent ceremony that saw more than 170 Black players from nearly every team ring the field, also at Disney World. The demonstration lasted eight minutes and 46 seconds, the initially reported time a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on the neck of George Floyd, eventually killing him.
WATCH | Raptors focus on social issues, title defence:
Toronto Blue Jays players Anthony Alford and Santiago Espinal kneeled during “O Canada”, then were joined by Cavan Biggio and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in kneeling during the U.S. anthem in their opening game last Friday at Tampa Bay.
In the NHL, nobody kneeled during exhibition games this week in Toronto. Players from opposing teams either stood side-by-side or locked arms.
The NHL’s official restart begins Saturday.
‘We’re out here trying to get some social justice’ says Lowry
Lowry and several other NBA players, including former Raptor DeMar DeRozan, were in attendance for the Lakers-Clippers battle. Utah and New Orleans met in the earlier game.
Lowry said the anthem demonstrations set the tone for “what we’re down here for.”
“Those four teams, including coaches in the organization, I think it was beautiful what they did and they did it in unison, and for us to be able to do that in our league, support us, and our players and all of us being one,” he said. “Yes, we’re all competitors and, yes, we want to beat each other, but at the end of the day we’re out here trying to get some social justice.”
A major theme of the restart is amplifying social justice messages.
“As I watched (the anthems), you could feel it stirring some emotions in your heart and in your mind,” Nurse said. “That, to me, means it was impactful, I’m sure a lot of people felt as I did.”
Lowry said he was thinking about specific events.
“What was going though my head was justice for Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Eric Garner, all these guys, all these Black human beings, Black men and Black women, being killed in cold blood,” he said. “That stuff hits hard and I have two young children and I would hate to have that happen to them or happen to me or anyone in my family or anyone I know.”
WNBA players walked off the court prior to the anthem when the league tipped off last Saturday.
Nurse, who wore an orange WNBA hoodie for Friday’s Zoom call, said he’s always been a big fan of the women’s pro league, and used to watch games either on TV or live to get his summer basketball fix.
“They’ve been in the news doing some cool things,” he said of the WNBA’s restart.