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Pope Francis meets with NBA players to talk inequality, injustice

By Don Jacobson
Pope Francis meets with NBA players to talk inequality, injustice
A court at the HP Field House in Orlando, Fla.,pictured on August 27, includes a show of support for the Black Lives Matter movement. File Photo by John G. Mabanglo/EPA-EFE

Nov. 23 (UPI) -- Players in National Basketball Association met with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Monday to discuss social and economic injustices and inequalities, the players union said.

The National Basketball Players Association said a delegation of five players and three union officials met with the pontiff in the papal library of the Apostolic Palace in Vatican City. The meeting was noted on pope's list of audiences Monday.

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Those who met with Pope Francis were Marco Belinelli of the San Antonio Spurs, Sterling Brown and Kyle Korver of the Milwaukee Bucks, Jonathan Isaac of the Orlando Magic and Anthony Tolliver of the Memphis Grizzlies, the union said.

NBPA Executive Director Michele Roberts, Foundation Executive Director Sherrie Deans and Chief of International Relations Matteo Zuretti also attended.

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Roberts said the pope sought the meeting and said it "demonstrates the influence of their platforms."

"We are extremely honored to have had this opportunity to come to the Vatican and share our experiences with Pope Francis," Korver said in a statement.

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"Today's meeting was an incredible experience," added Anthony Tolliver. "With the Pope's support and blessing, we are excited to head into this next season reinvigorated to keep pushing for change and bringing our communities together."

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After the NBA resumed its season in July after a COVID-19 hiatus, numerous players voiced and showed support for racial equality and protested the police shootings that killed George Floyd in Minnesota and Breonna Taylor in Kentucky.

The league even allowed players to put activist messages on the back of their jerseys, in place of their surnames. Many players did so.

In August, Bucks players even voted not to play a playoff game against the Magic as a show of protest following the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wis.

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Earlier this month, Brown received a $750,000 civil settlement from the city of Milwaukee after saying several police officers forced him to the ground and used a stun gun on him two years ago during a parking dispute.

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