Pope Francis, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church, met with representatives of the NBA in an unprecedented meeting Monday morning at the Vatican.
A delegation of five NBA players and other officials from the National Basketball Players Association were in Vatican City for a private audience with the Pope to discuss the league’s work on social justice issues. The five players in attendance, per ESPN, were Kyle Korver, Sterling Brown, Jonathan Isaac, Anthony Tolliver and Marco Belinelli. The executive director of the players’ union, Michele Roberts, also was at the meeting.
According to ESPN, an assistant to Pope Francis reached out to the NBPA last week saying that the Pope wanted to learn more about the NBA players’ social justice efforts and initiatives, along with what they had planned going forward. The union representatives flew overnight Sunday to meet with the Pope at 11:45 a.m. local time at the Vatican, according to ESPN, with the meeting taking place in the papal library at the Apostolic Palace and scheduled to last about an hour.
The NBA (and WNBA) was at the forefront of social justice messaging and initiatives upon its return in the league’s bubble in Orlando. Most players wore messages related to social justice on the back of their uniforms, while “Black Lives Matter” was painted on the court. Most players and coaches also knelt when the national anthem was played.
Korver and Brown were both members of the Milwaukee Bucks team that chose to boycott a playoff game against Isaac’s Orlando Magic after the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wis. Brown also reached a settlement earlier this month with the city of Milwaukee after an incident with police in January 2018.
Isaac is an ordained minister, and he’s also one of the few players/coaches who chose to stand during the national anthem in the bubble (as was Miami’s Meyers Leonard, who spoke with SN about that decision).
NBA players had to quickly fit this trip into their schedules because they’re supposed to be back in their home markets by the end of the month for COVID-19 testing protocols before training camp. The NBA season is slated to begin on Dec. 22.
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