Hawks will fully support players who choose to protest

Thabo Sefolosha knows that he is lucky to be alive.

The Hawks forward survived an incident with police officers. However, others who have not. The instances of excessive use of force by police has sparked outrage and protest. Incidents in Tulsa and Charlotte are the latest examples that have captured national attention in the past several years.

Protest and activism for change have moved into the world of sports as NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick has chosen to kneel during the playing of the national anthem to protest the social injustices.

“To be honest, looking at some of the footage that we see from Tulsa and Charlotte, I feel lucky to be here and to talk about what happened to me,” said Sefolosha, who suffered a broken leg and ligament damage during an arrest in New York City in April 2015. “To be honest, it could have went many different ways. I think I’m lucky to be able to speak about it.

“It’s been going on for years now. It’s a touchy subject but it needs to be addressed. It’s a necessary conversation and hopefully it can happen without violence in all the demonstrations going on.”

Sefolosha was acquitted of all charges and has filed a civil lawsuit in the case.

Athletes from other NFL teams and in other sports have joined Kaepernick. With NBA training camps underway, the possibility of player protest has become an issue for the league.

Sefolosha said Monday that he does not intend an action of protest during the national anthem this season.

“I think it’s great that it has ignited the conversation,” Jarrett Jack said. “Cleary, the conversation is very, very necessary. I just wonder if there is a stance or a way that we can still show these same protests and maybe it doesn’t necessarily have to involve the national anthem. Could it be in another way that we can still get these same type of results but still try to do it as respectfully as we can? … I do applaud everybody for exercising their First Amendment right and stand up for what they believe in.”

The NBA has a collectively bargained rule that requires players to stand during the national anthem. It states “Players, coaches and trainers are to stand and line up in a dignified posture along the sidelines or on the foul line during the playing of the national anthem.”

The NBA recently sent a letter to players requesting their thoughts about ways to participate in “positive change.”

Coach Mike Budenholzer said Monday that the Hawks organization will fully support the players if and how they choose to voice their opinion.

“We will be incredibly supportive of our players,” Budenholzer said. “Our ownership, our organization, myself as the coach and president and Wes (Wilcox) as our general manager, we want to be supportive of our players. The more thoughtful, the more respective, we can be. If we are those two things our country will be better. I think our players have always been both of those things. However it is they choose to (protest), I will and the organization will support them. I think it’s going to be a continuing conversation and hopefully our country will get better going forward because of the conversation.”

Kyle Korver said there is a place for athletes in the discussion about national issues and prospective change.

“There a lot of people out there who say we shouldn’t,” Korver said. “But there are people who have asked us to be role models. It’s important for us to be unified in our message. Be respectful. But we are in America and you get to voice your opinion. I think as long as there are really good conversations in progress, I think it’s a good thing. There are problems in our country. Athletes can have a role in the conversation. I think it’s on us to educate ourselves. You shouldn’t feel pressure to have to do something. That is something we have trying to stress to our team.”

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.