ANAHEIM, Calif. — Los Angeles Lakers coach Luke Walton says the team plans to lock arms during the national anthem throughout the season, beginning with their preseason game on Saturday night against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
“We are in this together,” Walton said of the coaches locking arms with the players. “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.
“But 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. If you do nothing, then it kind of goes away and if it goes away, then nothing changes.”
The Timberwolves will reportedly also lock arms and stand before Saturday’s game. Minnesota coach Tom Thibodeau said he has encouraged his players to voice their opinions and be active in the community.
“Our guys have been real good, doing a lot of real positive things in the community,” Thibodeau said. “They have thoughts about a lot of things that are going on, in a very positive way. I want them to voice their opinions but I also want them to be active in the community.”
NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum sent a memo to the league following the Board of Governors meetings to suggest steps each team can take to develop impactful community programs, stating, “We support and encourage players to express their views on matters that are important to them.”
The memo also said reiterated that the NBA has a rule for “players, coaches and trainers stand respectfully for the anthem” and that the league office will determine how to deal with any instance in which a player, coach or trainer doesn’t stand.
Walton said the NBA has been very supportive of the teams and players. The Lakers met during camp with the coaches telling the players to meet and discuss amongst themselves what they wanted to do. Before the Lakers left for their preseason game, the players said they wanted to lock arms.
Walton said the players discussed what other teams around other leagues have done but that kneeling during the anthem was only discussed when talking about what other athletes and teams have done.
“It is important for me, for the players and for our country to continue to talk and be active and get out in the community and do things that makes this country better and equal for opportunities and for everybody that lives here,” Walton said. “I think that is why the players and team decided to do that.”