Raptors interlock arms for national anthems before preseason opener

ByEthan Sherwood Strauss ESPN logo
Sunday, October 2, 2016

VANCOUVER, B.C. -- Members of the Toronto Raptors elected to interlock arms during the playing of both the Canadian and U.S. national anthems before their 97-93 preseason win over the Golden State Warriors on Saturday night.

There had been speculation over how each team might approach "The Star-Spangled Banner," given the recent kneeling and fist protests inspired by San Francisco 49ersquarterbackColin Kaepernick, who said his actions were in response to racial injustice and fatal police shootings in the United States.

While the Raptors locked arms throughout both anthems, the Warriors comported themselves traditionally, save for forward David West, who stood roughly 2 feet behind the anthem line with his arms behind his back.

On Monday, West told The Undefeated's Marc J. Spears of a possible anthem display: "Protest is an individual thing. It's based on your own personal conviction. I don't think anybody should feel compelled one way or the other. Particularly, don't feel pressure to do it because other guys are doing it. Be personally convicted. Feel like if you're doing something, what you're doing is from you and not because it's the popular thing to do."

At Warriors media day, Golden State forward Draymond Green spoke at length on the subject of protest.

"I think it's important to speak out because we're human,'' Green said. "There are a lot of changes that need to be made. It's not just the killing of black people -- that's obviously rough and crazy to me -- there are a lot of changes that need to be made in this country.''

While Green, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson all indicated they would stand for the anthem, they praised Kaepernick's approach. New Warrior Kevin Durant said he was "very proud of him."

Before Saturday's game, Warriors coach Steve Kerr was asked about his message to his team regarding the anthem and said, "My message was that our organization supports our players and whatever they decide to do. I support them, but I'd like for everybody to have a heads-up for each other's sake because, obviously, it's going to generate a lot of conversation if someone decides to make some kind of statement, whether it's kneeling or a fist in the air, so I don't anticipate our guys will do anything based on our conversations -- mainly because our guys are more focused on the next step.

"We've talked a lot more about how we can help in our community, what can we do better as a group, and go from there."

In response to a similar question, Raptors coach Dwane Casey said, "We've had some great conversations coming from the South, coming from segregation, segregated schools, and going through integration -- I've experienced a lot of what's going on firsthand, and fortunately we talked and [dealt] with each other.

"Guys were real. Guys have sincere feelings, sincere thoughts, sincere things to talk about, and concerns. And that's what all this is to be about, to induce conversation, and that's what our players can do."

No Dallas Mavericks or New Orleans Pelicans players displayed any form of protest before or during the national anthem of their preseason matchup in Bossier City, Louisiana, which was not broadcast on television.

ESPN's Justin Verrier contributed to this report.

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