In an unconventional and unexpected meeting, a delegation of five NBA players and several National Basketball Players Association officials are in the Vatican last Monday morning for a private meeting with the Head of the Roman Catholic, Pope Francis. The said meeting will be discussing their role, plans, and work on social justice issues in their country.
A Pope Francis intermediary contacted the players’ association last week, saying the Pope wanted to know more about how players had recently addressed pressing issues of social justice and economic inequality — and what they were up to for the future, union officials told ESPN. The union agreed and quickly scheduled an overnight Sunday flight to hold its private meeting with the Pope, which began Monday at 11:45 a.m. local time in the Vatican. With the start of the training camp on December 1st, players and union officials have had to make the trip now.
The delegation consists of Kyle Korver and Sterling Brown; Jonathan Isaac of Orlando Magic; Anthony Tolliver, union secretary-treasurer; Marco Belinelli; and Michele Roberts, general manager of the players’ union.
The meeting is expected to last one hour in the Papal Library of the Apostolic Palace, after which players and union officials will take a tour of St. Peter’s Square.
This initiative builds connections among the players and the league, in partnership with the NBA league office, used their stage during the restart of the 2020 NBA season in Orlando to highlight police brutality, racial injustice, and other issues in the spotlight. Most players have selected various social justice messages – including “Say their names”, “Equality,” and “Enough” – to be placed above their number on the back of their shirts. The league and union have decided to paint “Black Lives Matter” along a sideline. Most of the players and coaches knelt while playing the national anthem before matches.
Brown and Korver were both currently playing for the Milwaukee Bucks at the time, who opted out of a postseason game against the Orlando Magic following the police shooting of 29-year-old black man Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisc. The impromptu strike of the Bucks inspired a spate of such action in a variety of sports.
Besides, Brown, who agreed with the Houston Rockets this weekend, and George Hill, now a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder, were the first Bucks members to decide not to play the game. Brown is also one of the victims of police brutality. In early 2018, eight Milwaukee police officers harassed Brown outside a Walgreens to seek and investigate a possible parking violation. One of them forced Brown to the ground. Another police used a Taser on him. Earlier this month, Brown filed a civil rights lawsuit, and he brought against Milwaukee and the law after defendants accepted a $ 750,000 payment.
The ordained minister, Isaac, was one of the few players and coaches to represent the national anthem during the NBA’s reboot in Orlando.
The meeting was very serene and quiet. The players plan to discuss this with the media afterward, and they will return to the United States Tuesday morning.
“You’re champions but also giving the example of teamwork, you’ve become a model, giving that good example of teamwork but always remaining humble … and preserving your humanity.” The pope said
“The pope had important words for us: We need to continue to be united, to operate as brothers, as a team, and to set an example for the younger generations,” Belinelli continued. “The key is to remain humble. I will never forget this experience.”
Roberts said Francis sought the meeting with the players and that it “demonstrates the influence of their platforms.”
The hearing took place days before the release of a book in which Francis supports the demands for racial justice, particularly action taken after the murder of George Floyd, a Black man who died in May. A Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee to his neck for minutes as Floyd said he couldn’t breathe.
The demands for social and racial justice have been of prime importance among players, especially in the last few months after the deaths of Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
Brown told him in his comments to the Pope what he, Korver, and the other Milwaukee Bucks had experienced in the NBA reboot bubble – especially when they decided not to make a playoff game against Orlando in response to Jacob Blake’s shooting. , a black man from the Kenosha, Wisconsin police.
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