OKC Thunder players kneel, despite Oklahoma lawmaker’s threat to end tax breaks
State Rep. Sean Roberts says taking a knee during the national anthem is an 'anti-patriotic act'
An Oklahoma state representative is fed up with athletes kneeling during the national anthem and is threatening to hold the Oklahoma City Thunder to account.
State Rep. Sean Roberts, a Republican, issued a warning to the NBA franchise on Friday, urging that the team stand for the playing of the song or he will lead a charge to strip tax benefits that the organization receives from the state, local news outlet KFOR-TV reports.
That, however, did not deter the team as members of the Thunder joined Utah Jazz members in kneeling during the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” anyway.
Video footage of the scene was posted to Twitter by Salt Lake City Tribune writer Eric Walden, who noted that one referee stood during the anthem.
Since the shortened season resumed last week, nearly every player and coach in the basketball league has unified by taking a knee, as inspired by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, and wearing a “Black Lives Matter” t-shirt to make a statement against issues of police brutality and racial injustices in America.
Roberts, of Homity, Okla., made it clear that he doesn’t want the Thunder to take part in the pregame demonstration.
“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 said in a statement.
The Thunder took the liberty of showcasing players’ reasoning to participate in the protest, posting a video to Twitter later that night with the caption: “For equality.”
“Man, it was special, you know, to be able to do that together,” Chris Paul, Thunder point guard, said in the roughly one minute clip. “As players, we had a lot of conversations about coming down here and, you know, the bigger reason of what we [were] playing for, so to do it on a united front was nice.”
Paul also serves as president of the National Basketball Players Association.
Ever since the NBA season returned Thursday from a four-month hiatus caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic, a majority of players and coaches alike have been kneeling during the anthem in a nod to the “Black Lives Matter” movement.
Roberts expressed in his statement that he opposes the movement, claiming that it has “ties to Marxism” and is trying to “destroy nuclear families.”
Furthermore, Roberts framed the protest as an “anti-patriotic act” that displays “disrespect to the American flag and all it stands for.”
The lawmaker, who was first elected in 2011, also believes that the NBA’s support of the stance that players are taking proves the league supports efforts to defund the police.
Roberts highlighted that the Thunder organization is under contract through the Quality Jobs Act to receive tax breaks through 2024. He raised the idea of diverting the potential tax revenue to law enforcement, should the Thunder no longer be granted the tax relief.
“Perhaps these funds would be better served in support of our police departments rather than giving tax breaks to an organization that supports defunding police and the dissolution of the American nuclear family,” he wrote.
In the team’s first game in the NBA bubble at Disney’s Wide World of Sports in Orlando, Fla., the Thunder defeated the Jazz 110-94.
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