In the midst of being historically trash for three consecutive seasons while ownership has endured a familial power struggle, the Los Angeles Lakers have shown some semblance of unity. D’Angelo Russell and Nick Young patched up their differences last season before both of them eventually ended up on different teams, and the squad found a rallying cry in Metta World Peace’s “I love basketball” mantra.
As the Lonzo Ball-led Magic Johnson regime began with Saturday night’s preseason game, the Lakers embraced a type of unity with a bit more of a serious tone by locking arms during the national anthem.
“We are in this together,” Lakers head coach Luke Walton told ESPN before his team played a preseason game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. “I think they chose to show that we are united in this and that obviously, they have a ton of respect ... well I will let them speak for themselves but I have a ton of respect for the country, the flag, the military.”
The gesture appears to fit within the confines of a memo the NBA sent to all 30 teams on September 29 reinforcing a longstanding rule that players are required to stand for the singing of the national anthem. The memo advised players and/or team officials to give pregame speeches or conduct community events in lieu of kneeling or remaining in the locker room during the anthem.
The Seattle Seahawks began the process of interlocking arms during the anthem on September 11, 2016. The gesture was viewed as an alternative to Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling in protest to bring awareness to conditions impacting black American citizens and other people of color.
“By locking arms, I feel like we are showing that there are issues in this country and it is a chance for us to raise awareness and still make it a talking point,” Walton said. “If you do nothing, then it kind of goes away and if it goes away, then nothing changes.”
The Lakers’ actions come eight days after President Donald Trump rescinded an invitation to the White House that several members of the NBA Champion Golden State Warriors preemptively declined.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver released a statement expressing regret that the Warriors wouldn’t visit the White House, while LeBron James opted for stronger rhetoric, referring to Trump as “U bum.”