At a press conference today Knicks president Phil Jackson, general manager Steve Mills and head coach Jeff Hornacek discussed how the team will handle protests when the season starts. In the wake of NFL players participating in weekly demonstrations across the league, eyes have turned to the NBA–whose preseason begins October 1st– and how the players and ownership will respond to the wave of demonstrations inspired by Colin Kaerpernick. Knicks captain Carmelo Anthony has been very vocal about social issues, specifically around race.
Phil Jackson began by recalling the time NBA player Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf (formerly known as Chris Jackson) sat in protest during the singing of the National Anthem and was suspended for one game in 1996 for his refusal to stand. The league was eventually able to work out a compromise with him where he would stand, but could close his eyes and look downward while he recited prayers. As a result, the league had it placed in the by-laws mandating standing during the National Anthem. But Jackson did not rule out some action still being taken by members of his team.
“We are trying to measure what our players want to do,” he said. ” We want them to do something that they all feel genuine about. We have five or six guys who are international, depending on which side of the fence Joakim [Noah] wants to sit on. We have a disparate group of guys that some of them are involved in this, some are not. So I’ve asked for a little bit of a consultation and we’ll talk about it at some point as a team. But we want to do something that’s unified and representative of who we are. And we want to be respectful in some way to our citizens and fan crew.”
Jackson added that he’d spoken to Carmelo upon his return from Poland, as has GM Steve Mills, who said that he “respects the players” but hopes to get past the protesting/gesture to action.
“I’ve talked to several of the players and I think they’re all in the agreement that the awareness is out there now,” Coach Jeff Hornacek said in conclusion. “So what can we do to further it and actually do something about it. And make it better. They seem to be past the stage of making a stance and really want to help.”
Watch the full video above.