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Oklahoma City Thunder players kneel during anthem even after threat from GOP congressman
Players kneel before an NBA basketball game between the Utah Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder on Aug. 1, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. (Photo by Ashley Landis - Pool/Getty Images)

Oklahoma City Thunder players kneel during anthem even after threat from GOP congressman

'...disrespect to the American flag'

Oklahoma City Thunder players took a knee during the national anthem before Saturday's game against the Utah Jazz after a Republican state representative suggested the team should lose state tax benefits for the protest, Yahoo News reported.

Oklahoma state Rep. Sean Roberts (R) said in a Friday statement that the state should "reexamine" the team's tax benefits if the players showed support for Black Lives Matter by kneeling during the anthem in protest of racism and police brutality.

"By kneeling during the playing of the national anthem, the NBA and its players are showing disrespect to the American flag and all it stands for. This anti-patriotic act makes clear the NBA's support of the Black Lives Matter group and its goal of defunding our nation's police, its ties to Marxism and its efforts to destroy nuclear families," Roberts said in a statement. "If the Oklahoma City Thunder leadership and players follow the current trend of the NBA by kneeling during the national anthem prior to Saturday's game, perhaps we need to reexamine the significant tax benefits the State of Oklahoma granted the Oklahoma City Thunder organization when they came to Oklahoma."

Roberts suggested that funding should be directed to police rather than used to give tax breaks to the NBA franchise that came to Oklahoma City from Seattle in 2008.

All players on both teams knelt during the national anthem before Friday's game. Only a referee remained standing. Chris Paul, the Thunder's top player, is the president of the NBA players union, and was involved in the agreement with the league to allow players to wear social justice messages on their jerseys instead of their last names.

Kneeling in protest during the national anthem is so ubiquitous in the NBA now that the few team members who choose to stand for the anthem are singled out and questioned about their decision. San Antonio Spurs coaches Gregg Popovich and Becky Hammon stood for the anthem Friday. Two players, Meyers Leonard of the Miami Heat and Jonathan Isaac of the Orlando Magic, also stood.

Popovich declined to elaborate on his decision to stand, choosing instead to credit the league for allowing individuals to make their own decisions on the matter. Isaac explained that he supported anti-racism efforts, but emphasized his belief that only the Christian gospel was the answer to the problems in the U.S., not superficial demonstrations.

"I'm black...I'm not for racism and I don't think that me not kneeling before the game and wearing a T-shirt makes me mean that at all," Isaac said when questioned about his decision.

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