HOUSTON — Warriors coach Steve Kerr denounced the NFL’s new policy on the national anthem as idiotic on Thursday. It requires NFL players to stand if they are on the field during the performance — or else be subject to a fine. NFL players also have the option of remaining in the locker room.
“I think it’s just typical of the NFL,” Kerr said at Thursday’s shootaround in Houston before the Warriors lost to the Rockets in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals. “They’re just playing to their fan base and they’re basically trying to use the anthem as fake patriotism, nationalism, scaring people. It’s idiotic, but that’s how the NFL has handled their business. I’m proud to be in a league that understands patriotism in America is about free speech and about peacefully protesting.
“I think our leadership in the NBA understands when the NFL players were kneeling, they were kneeling to protest police brutality, to protest racial inequality. They weren’t disrespecting the flag or the military, but our president decided to make it about that. That NFL followed suit, pandered to their fan base, created this hysteria.
“This is kind of what’s wrong with our country right now. People in high places are trying to divide us, divide loyalties, make this about the flag, as if the flag is something other than what it really is. It’s a representation of what we’re really about, which is diversity, and peaceful protest and right to free speech. It’s really ironic actually what the NFL is doing.”
The NBA has been more tolerant and encouraging of its players speaking out against social injustices and ills. For example, after LeBron James and Kevin Durant denounced Fox News’ Laura Ingraham’s comment that they should “shut up and dribble,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said he was proud of them.
But the NBA has a national anthem policy as well, which requires players, coaches and trainers to “stand and line up in a dignified posture” during the performance.
“Adam and the league’s leadership, we feel like we’re partners — players, coaches, management, league management, we feel like we’re all partners,” Kerr said. “I’m really proud of our players around the league for really being community leaders, being outspoken for good, for the change we need. I know (Thursday) we’ll be honoring the victims of the Santa Fe shooting. A lot of our players have been outspoken in terms of gun safety, gun violence, and our league supports it. We’re proud to be part of a whole group that is just trying to make our country better and make some changes for the better. So I’m proud of the NBA for that.”
Kerr, who played on five NBA championship teams in Chicago and San Antonio and coached the Golden State Warriors to the 2015 and 2017 NBA titles, said the NBA’s attitude around social issues has progressed throughout the years. He played at the University of Arizona from 1984 to 1988, helping the Arizona Wildcats reach the Final Four.
“I think it’s evolved over time,” Kerr said. “When I came into the league, I don’t think social issues were at the forefront of society. I think we were at a better place in terms of what was happening in the world. I think we were more united. I think the country has been divided over the last decade or so, or maybe since 9-11. Since that time, I think the league and the players have grown closer in terms of becoming partners and trying to improve communities. I think (former NBA commissioner) David Stern had a lot to do with that. And I think Adam Silver has really taken that leadership mantle and made it a priority.”
On Thursday the Rockets held several tributes for the 10 victims and their families of the Santa Fe High shooting.
The choir from Santa Fe High performed the national anthem, and there was a moment of silence and a video tribute before tipoff. The Rockets will wore patches on their jerseys that read: “Santa Fe HS.” Rockets’ owner Tilman Fertitta also invited the school’s seniors and administrators to attend the game.
“It’s devastating any time you hear a story like this,” Kerr said. “What’s equally as devastating is the number of times we hear these stories. I remember in The Finals two years ago, maybe it was the conference finals, we had a moment of silence for the Orlando victims at the Pulse nightclub. That was two years ago. We still haven’t done anything in our country. Our government still hasn’t done anything in terms of gun safety laws.
“The Santa Fe victims were victims because the parent of the shooter didn’t lock the guns up. Why don’t we have laws to lock the guns up? Basic safety laws make so much sense, yet we’re tied up in this idiotic political battle, ideological battle. There are so many common sense gun reform measures that we can take, yet we refuse to do so out of ideological philosophies. And yet kids continue to get slaughtered. We’re going to honor those victims tonight and their family members, and everybody is going to be sad and everybody is going to be devastated. But nobody is going to do anything about it. It’s disgusting.”