LeBron James hopes he made Colin Kaepernick proud on Thursday night.
The NBA star, along with the rest of the Lakers and Clippers rosters, took a knee during the playing of the national anthem before their game Thursday night in the NBA's "bubble" in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Players and coaches from both teams locked arms to protest systemic racism, and in doing so followed the lead of Kaepernick, the former Wolf Pack star who first knelt during NFL games in 2016 for the same cause.
“I hope we made Kap proud," James said after the Lakers's win. "I hope we continue to make Kap proud every single day. I hope I make him proud with how I live my life, not only out on the basketball floor but off the floor. I’ve been one to always speak out about things that I feel are unjust. If I’m educated on things, I always go about it that way. So Kap was someone who stood up when times wasn't comfortable, when people didn’t understand or refused to listen to what he was saying.”
James did not kneel after Kaepernick did four years ago, saying his voice and actions in the Black community was "more powerful than getting on a knee." Additionally, the NBA established a rule in 1981 that “players, coaches and trainers must stand and line up in a dignified posture along the foul lines” during the national anthem, and commissioner Adam Silver made it clear his expectations were for players to follow the rule. Players did adhere, in part because they felt as if the NBA was allowing them to speak openly on social issues, something James has done for several years.
But kneeling for the anthem was rejuvenated following the murder of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis in May. Players in MLB, MLS and other leagues have loosened their restrictions for protests during the anthem.
After his team's win Thursday, James said people failed to listen to Kaepernick's cause.
"You go back and listen to any of his post-game interviews when he was talking about why he was kneeling, it had absolutely nothing to do about the flag, had absolutely nothing to do about the soldiers, the men and women that keep our land free," James said. "He explained that, and the ears were uncomfortable. People never listened. They refused to listen, and I did (listen) and a lot of people in the Black community did listen. We just thank him for sacrificing everything that he did to put us in a position today years later to be able to have that moment like we had tonight."
James also said he was among those who have learned from Kaepernick.
“I just don’t think at that point in time I wasn’t fully educated,” James said. “Strengthening the mind, reading, listening, getting as educated as I can be on any situation, on anything that’s going on. I’ve been always who I am. And until I’m fully educated and I’m fully aware of what’s going on, then I call for action. I feel like at that time I wasn’t fully educated on the purpose, what is the purpose at hand. And honestly, Kap has taught me a lot about that.”