Amid a flurish of protests prior to Week 3 NFL games — in Philadelphia and all over the country — freedom of speech and the treatment of minorities are making headlines even in sports sections.
After President Donald Trump stirred the pot with incendiary tweets, encouraging NFL owners to fire players who protest, players in every sport felt attacked.
Sixers’ guard Jerryd Bayless was one such player, and he spoke out at the team’s media day event Monday.
“What hes done in dividing us and his narrow minded views is obviously not a good thing for the country,” Bayless, who sat out most of 2016-17 due to injury, said. “I think we all know and we’ve seen his comments from immigration to climate change to his bias, from ‘sons of bitches’ to ‘fine people are part of a [Nazi] rally.’ I think what he’s done is self explanatory and now is a time to see how are we all going to move forward.
Does that open the door for Bayless and other NBA players to demonstrate somehow during the upcoming season?
“The protests are great,” the veteran said. “I think everyone has a right to do whatever they want to do but we need to come together and make [Trump] feel like what he is doing is wrong. I don’t know if this is an approitiate time to do that but hopefully from this everyone will find a way to move forward and find a way to make him go a different direction.”
Justin Anderson, a forward acquired via trade this past season, has a unique take on recent events having spent his college days at the University of Virginia, site of a violent protest and the source of a lot of racial frustration.
“The Charlottesville situation hit home. It was very relevant to me in my life,” Anderson said. “As far as the protests we have seen as of late, we have a group chat we have been sending screen shots of things to one another. We have about 10 days until our first preseason game. As far as what we might physically do to send our message, we haven’t decided yet but we all agree in the locker room about the things that are going on and we want to do something to shed a light on trying to promote unity.”
“I think it’s somthing that is bringing us closer.”
Bayless and Anderson sound optimistic, and witnessed nearly the entire NFL unite against Trump’s statements. Joel Embiid, another Sixers’ player, was one of a handful of his teammates actually at the Eagles-Giants game Sunday, seeing a last-minute 61-yard field goal life Philly to 2-1. But for Embiid, the political took a back seat to the warmth of the city and it’s love for basketball.
“I love the city of Philadelphia they have the best fans,” Embiid, who got a huge ovation on the jumbotron said. “I went to the game yesterday and it was probably the most love I have gotten in the city yet. I went to the VIP section but I had to go through the entire stadum to get back there and people were shouting my name and ‘Trust the Process.’ It was amazing.”