NBA Commissioner Adam Silver says he expects players to adhere to league rules and stand for the national anthem amid a wave of protests in the NFL and other sports.
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"Many of our players have spoken out already about their plan to stand for the anthem," Silver said Thursday. "And I think they understand how divisive an issue it is in our society right now."
Silver said the playing of the national anthem has always been a time for respect and reflection — even in a league where 25 percent of the players are not American — and recalled that many teams locked arms last season.
He wants them to continue showing unity during the anthem — but to do it while standing.
"It's been a rule as long as I've been involved with the league, and my expectation is that our players will continue to stand for the anthem," he said.
Silver didn't say what would happen if any players refuse to stand, adding: "If that were to happen, we'll deal with it when it happens."
The NFL is seeing an unprecedented wave of player protests during the national anthem in recent days after President Trump called on the league to punish players who kneel during the anthem. Trump told reporters this week that the NFL’s “business will go to hell” if it doesn’t curtail the demonstrations.
Silver spoke following the NBA's Board of Governors meetings, during which owners passed rules designed to prevent healthy players from sitting out games, and teams from losing games on purpose to improve their draft position.
Under the new draft lottery rules, the teams with the three worst records will all have 14 percent odds to land the No. 1 pick when the changes are implemented with the 2019 draft.
The team with the worst record previously had 25 percent odds to win the lottery and could fall to the No. 4 spot in the draft. Now that team call tumble all the way to fifth.
The lottery changes were to discourage tanking, the practice of losing games on purpose in an effort to improve draft odds. The Philadelphia 76ers relied on the tactic heavily in recent years and the league felt it needed to step in and urge teams to always be competitive.
Silver felt teams had even begun feeling pressure to use the strategy of fielding poor squads and building through the draft.
"I felt it was corrosive to this league," he said.
The second-worst team has a 19.9 percent to win the lottery and the third seed a 15.6 percent chance under the current format that will remain through next June's draft.
The board voted to allow Silver to fine teams who violate the league's new guidelines about resting players. Teams can't sit healthy players for high-profile, nationally televised games, and fines for violating that can be for at least $100,000.
The rules also say that unless there are unusual circumstances, teams should not rest multiple healthy players for the same game or rest healthy players when playing on the road.
The league office had long resisted getting involved in coaches' decisions about resting players. But with its national TV partners paying the league billions, Silver felt he had to act after LeBron James and stars from the Golden State Warriors sat out nationally televised games last season.
"It's not a position we want the league to be in," Silver said. "It ultimately is my hope that the rules go in the drawer and that teams step up here and see that there is a larger obligation to our fans, to the basketball community."
The board also talked about current events, meeting less than a week after Trump opted against inviting the Warriors to the White House after All-Star Stephen Curry said he didn't want to go.
Silver thinks NBA players have other opportunities, either by continuing their community service efforts or through the media, to make their voices heard.
"I'm hoping once again that this league can play a constructive role there," Silver said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.