Hawks players want entire arena to lock arms in show of unity

Players from several NBA teams have locked arms in a sign of unity before recent exhibition games.

The Hawks would like to take the gesture a step further.

The Celtics, Knicks, Rockets, Lakers and Kings all locked arms during the playing of the national anthem on Tuesday. The Raptors did so before their game on Saturday. The gesture comes at a time when athletes in many sports at many levels are protesting racial inequities and instances of police brutality. The movement began when NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick chose to kneel during the national anthem.

The NBA has a collectively bargained rule that states all players, coaches and team personnel must stand during the national anthem.

After an hour-long team discussion following practice on Tuesday, the Hawks had the idea for all those in attendance at regular-season home games to join them and lock arms. The gesture possibly could begin with the team’s first home exhibition game against the Cavaliers on Monday. The contest has already been labeled a Unity Game to celebrate Atlanta’s multicultural groups and diversity.

“We want to start it here in Atlanta,” said Dwight Howard, who teammates credited with the idea. “It could be something really good here to show that as a city Atlanta is unified no matter what color, race, religion that you are. When you come to these games, we want to show that we are unified and we are together. The guys are going to compete on the floor. But before the games, we still want to pay homage to all those who died to fight for our country but at the same time we want to show that we are unified. We want everybody who is at the arena to show respect to each other. That’s where it starts. If we can start as a country respecting each other just by simple gestures, locking arms, saying that we are together things can hopefully change for the better. I think that will be a good start for us.”

The Hawks being their exhibition schedule with road games at the Grizzlies on Thursday and at the Spurs on Saturday before their first home game at Philips Arena.

Prior to the season, Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said the organization would be supportive of players who chose to protest.

“With all the stuff that is going on, it’s a super delicate situation,” Kent Bazemore said. “A lot of people across the world feel differently about what is going on. We are trying to bring everyone together. Protesting the national anthem is so vague because there is so much going on, pinpointing exactly what you are protesting. For us, we want to get everybody involved and let them know that everybody is being heard. …

“Our biggest thing is not to cause any controversy. We don’t want to have any distractions. We are chasing a championship. It’s pivotal that we get our message out and we do it in a very respectable way. I’m sure everybody here will buy in.”

Budenholzer said a final determination has not been made after Howard approached him with the idea.

“We are still having those discussions about what is appropriate for us and hopefully continue the conversation, which is the real reason you do those things,” Budenholzer said. “I think the players are very engaged.”

Howard said it would be great if the gesture could begin with the first home exhibition game. The Atlanta native wants unity to be a symbol for the city.

“It says the United States of America,” Howards said. “We have to be unified. We have to be together. We want to show the world that we are unified especially as a city.”

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