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LeBron James hopes NBA players 'made Kaepernick proud' with anthem kneel

LeBron James (C) and every player and coach from both the Los Angeles Lakers and the Los Angeles Clippers knelt during the national anthem to protest police brutality and racial inequality Thursday in Orlando, Fla. Photo by Erik S. Lesser/EPA-EFE
LeBron James (C) and every player and coach from both the Los Angeles Lakers and the Los Angeles Clippers knelt during the national anthem to protest police brutality and racial inequality Thursday in Orlando, Fla. Photo by Erik S. Lesser/EPA-EFE

July 31 (UPI) -- LeBron James said he hopes NBA players made Colin Kaepernick "proud" after dozens of players, coaches and referees knelt in protest of police brutality and racial inequality when the season resumed in Orlando, Fla.

Kaepernick started to kneel during the national anthem before NFL games in 2016 to protest the same issues while he was quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers.

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Support for the protests among sports leagues managements has grown around the world amid unrest in the United States after the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.

"I hope we made Kap proud," James told reporters. "I hope we continue to make Kap proud. Every single day, I hope I make him proud with how I live my life, not only on the basketball floor. I want to always speak out about things I think are unjust.

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"Kap was someone who stood up when times weren't comfortable. People refused to listen to what he was saying. If you go back and look at his postgame interviews when he talked about why he was kneeling, it had nothing to do with the flag.

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"It had nothing to do with soldiers, the men and women who keep our land free. He explained that, but people refused to listen. I did."

All players and staff members from Utah Jazz and New Orleans Pelicans and officials knelt on the court during the national anthem before the first game of the resumed season Thursday at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex at Walt Disney World Resort.

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Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers players and coaches and officials also participated in the protest in Thursday's second game in Orlando.

Players wore Black Lives Matter shirts and some raised a clenched fist during the demonstrations.

Many NBA players from around the league will have social justice messages -- instead of their names -- on the backs of their jerseys for the eight seeding games and throughout the playoffs as part of the NBA's resumed season.

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Jersey messages have featured the words "equality, I am a man, Ally" and "Say her name." "Say her name" is a reference to Taylor, who died March 13 after she was shot by police officers in her Louisville, Ky., apartment.

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NBA courts in Orlando also feature Black Lives Matter banners.

"It felt great," the Clippers' Paul George said of Thursday's demonstration. "When you look at it from afar, millions tuned into the games tonight. It will always be on people's minds. It was great. We stood up for something. We knelt for something.

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"This league is all about unity."

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