NBA players have recently avoided the White House. The Vatican is a different story.
Five players and representatives from the league had an unprecedented private audience with Pope Francis on Monday morning after the catholic leader’s assistant initiated one to discuss the group’s racial injustice initiatives, according to ESPN.com.
The NBA’s contingent included Kyle Korver, Sterling Brown, Jonathan Isaac, Anthony Tolliver and Marco Belinelli.
The NBA became the focal point of athletes’ responding to racial injustice after police shot Jacob Blake, a Black man, in Kenosha, Wisconsin seven times. After video of the incident was released, the Bucks spearheaded a boycott of playoff games inside the NBA bubble. The postseason was put on hold for several days as players decided whether to cancel the season altogether or return to finish it out.
Players ultimately agreed to return after getting owners and NBA commissioner Adam Silver to agree to several league-sponsored initiatives toward racial equality. Pope Francis wanted to learn more about how the players brought attention to the issues.
Brown, who was on the Bucks last season, has personal experience with police brutality when he was Tasered outside a Walgreens over a parking infraction in early 2018. Brown recently settled a $750,000 lawsuit with the city of Milwaukee.
Isaac, a member of the Magic, was one of the few NBA players not to kneel during the national anthem.
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