76ers' anthem singer Sevyn Streeter took the stand NBA players backed away from


Here’s hoping the NBA players got a good look at what the 76ers pulled off Wednesday night with (scheduled, then denied) national anthem singer Sevyn Streeter.

This, fellas, is what the NBA meant by engaging in discussions about social activism, and engaging in dialogue to bring positive change, and all the other platitudes being tossed around every time Colin Kaepernick and the anthem come up.

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What they meant was, “Dear God, please don’t bring on any of that backlash. If that’s driving fans away from the NFL, what do you think they’ll do to us? Can’t you guys just do a photo-op painting over graffiti or something?”

It was just a few days ago that Adam Silver was quoted in Bleacher Report about how players would use their voice and influence: “When they see sort of symbolic gestures by athletes in other sports, and not to devalue them in any way, I think their view is: We’ve moved past that stage already. … We will be judged by the substantive actions we’re taking in our communities.”

In the same article, Carmelo Anthony said: “I just don’t think the gesturing is creating anything. I think it’s bringing awareness, but I think doing stuff and creating awareness in the communities [is more effective].”

It doesn’t look like the NBA has moved past “that stage” yet, and the jury’s still out on how effective those unnecessary gestures are. 

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If one basketball-style jersey with the words “We Matter” worn by a young woman while singing the national anthem throws one of its franchises into a panic on Day 1 of the regular season, then no, you can never claim that you’re past gestures, and that there’s any doubt about their value.

Yet the NBA players fell for it.

After weeks of anticipation of how the league full of black players, culture and clientele would take the baton from Kaepernick, it's clear that they were talked into veering into another lane where there wasn't so much traffic.

Nobody else but them appeared to believe that all the talk of meeting with teams, the league office and union officials to find a different way to make an impact on the issues Kaepernick and fellow NFL players had forced the nation to confront was really a way to sidestep any danger of pushing the same buttons

Kaepernick pushed.

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The not-very-subtle message to the players was: the anthem is off-limits. Let's find a way for you to freely express your concerns that won't hit us in the wallets, shall we?

The message that apparently went right over the players’ heads: if gestures are obsolete and don’t have much meaning anymore, their bosses wouldn’t be joining forces to take them off the board once and for all.

Bet they get that message now. The 76ers put the clamps down on the gentlest possible gesture by someone who wasn’t even under contract with the team or the league. 

They also made Streeter, a young singer-songwriter not universally known to the public, the bravest, most dangerous figure in a building occupied by a group of the best athletes on the planet. Because a pro sports franchise worth nearly three-quarters of a billion dollars was scared to death of … her shirt. 

Not her, her shirt.

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So, players, next time you have a meet-and-greet with the local police behind the scenes to build “community trust,’’ remember who was actually willing to go out and threaten the status quo, to hold that mirror up to the establishment, to inject another dose of truth serum into society.

That could’ve been you. But you said, nah, let someone else stand up to that.