Anyone who has even casually followed professional sports (or even general news) knows that national anthem protests and demonstrations have been an enormously important issue in America in recent weeks. Athletes, politicians, and sports analysts have all offered competing takes, but one theme remains the same: demonstrations aren’t going anywhere.
Today, Chris Vivlamore of the AJC reported that the Atlanta Hawks have their own version of a national anthem demonstration, one that they hope fans will join them in.
Although Mike Budenholzer has pledged his support for any players who choose to protest the national anthem (in the vein of prominent NFL athletes), what the team has suggested is much different. Essentially, players want fans around the arena to lock arms for the national anthem.
The idea of locking arms isn’t unique to the Hawks, or even the NBA. Asking an entire arena of people to do seems like a new level, however. The goal here seems to be encouraging fans to stand together with the team, and show a simple spirit of unity.
While it is unclear whether or not this demonstration will actually happen at games yet, it’s hard to find fault with the idea (especially if it is used before Monday’s Unity Game). From all accounts, it seems like the team put a lot of thought and energy into this idea, and means for it to unite Atlantans from diverse backgrounds.
2016 has been a big year for athlete activism. From Lebron James and company’s special message at the ESPY’s to Carmelo Anthony’s tearful address following the Olympics, popular athletes have been far more vocal about addressing social and political issues in America.
From that perspective, it’s nice to see athletes in Atlanta doing something similar. Celebrating the city’s diversity was always a great idea, and asking for a demonstration of unity during the national anthem — particularly in a way as respectful as this — shows that players on the team are being thoughtful and thorough with incredibly delicate issues.
It will be very interesting to see how protests and demonstrations continue around the NBA this year. Whether or not the Hawks’ idea becomes a one-time event, or a normal, pregame activity, the idea itself is interesting and worth thinking about. No matter what, though, it’s nice to see the team taking an active, and thoughtful, role in the social issues facing America today.