Kobe Bryant says he would participate in anthem protests if he were still playing

Kobe Bryant reaffirmed in an interview with The Undefeated that he would have participated in the police brutality protests during the national anthem that Colin Kaepnernick began in the NFL. Bryant said last year he would kneel for the anthem if he were still playing, but did not expound much about his thinking at the time.

In this sitdown, Bryant talked more about the protests that engulfed the NFL over the past two seasons.

I would have participated in it, for sure. I’m sure I would have gotten some flak for it, but that’s fine. I think Colin’s message was a very simple one, it was that police brutality needs to stop. We need to take a look at that.

What kind of conversations could you have imagined taking place in a locker room as that was going on?

Well, in my experience in the locker room, it doesn’t seem like any players that I played with would have any issue with that. I think we understand this is a free country, I think we have the right to peaceful protest. And by the way, that’s what the flag represents as well, the ability to speak, the ability to voice your opinion, and everybody’s entitled to that. Everyone’s getting up in arms about it, they’re certainly within their rights to do that, just as we’re within our rights to protest, peacefully.

No NBA player has knelt or protested during the national anthem this season, which can be attributed to a variety of reasons. For one, not standing is technically against NBA rules, although it’s impossible to say what level the league would enforce it if challenged. The league has also been much more proactive about helping players find platforms in which they can have their voices heard.

Before the season, the league sent a memo to players that reminded them of the anthem rule, while also listing and supporting other platforms where players could use their voices and speak out. LeBron James famously called President Donald Trump a “bum” on Twitter, and has frequently used other avenues to voice his support and promote awareness for relevant social issues, including police brutality.