Five NBA players met Pope Francis at the Vatican on Monday to discuss social justice issues following a season where combating racial inequality was a dominant theme.
The players at the meeting were Anthony Tolliver, Kyle Korver, Sterling Brown, Jonathan Isaac and Marco Belinelli as well as National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) executive director Michele Roberts.
“Today’s meeting was an incredible experience,” Memphis Grizzlies power forward Tolliver was quoted as saying in an NBPA news release.
“With the Pope’s support and blessing, we are excited to head into this next season reinvigorated to keep pushing for change and bringing our communities together.”
A video of the meeting showed the players presenting the Pope with gifts including an Orlando Magic jersey.
Roberts said the meeting validated the power of the players’ voices.
“That one of the most influential leaders in the world sought to have a conversation with them demonstrates the influence of their platforms,” said Roberts.
“I remain inspired by our players’ continued commitment to serve and support our community.”
The league and its players ramped up their calls for system-wide reforms last season after the death of George Floyd in May.
The coronavirus-interrupted season resumed inside a bio-secure bubble in Florida with players wearing social justice messages on their jerseys and “Black Lives Matter” was printed on the basketball courts.
The new NBA regular season, a shortened 72-game slate, is scheduled to kick off on December 22.
Calendar for the 2020-21 season:
• December 11-19, 2020: Preseason games
• December 22, 2020 – March 4, 2021: First Half of regular season
• March 5-10, 2021: All-Star break
• March 11 – May 16, 2021: Second Half of regular season
• May 18-21, 2021: Play-In Tournament
• May 22 – July 22, 2021: 2021 NBA Playoffs