Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James says NBA players will continue to use their platform to fight for social justice

Orlando (AFP) - LeBron James vowed no let up in the fight for social justice as the NBA’s virus-hit season made an emotional return in Orlando on Thursday.

Los Angeles Lakers star James and players from the Los Angeles Clippers, Utah Jazz and New Orleans Pelicans all kneeled in unison during the US national anthem before their respective games in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

James, who scored the winning points for the Lakers in a 103-101 defeat of the Clippers, said players were determined to use their NBA platform to fight racism and police brutality.

“This is an opportunity to use this platform to spread a lot of positives, a lot of love throughout the course of the whole world,” James said.

“We understand what’s going on in society right now and we’re using this NBA platform as players as coaches and as an organisation to stand strong on that. This is a good start.

“There’s been progress. But in the past when there’s been progress, we’ve let our foot off the gas a little bit. We can’t do that. We want to continue to put our foot on the gas, push forward and spread love throughout America.”

The United States saw nationwide protests in June following the death of unarmed black man George Floyd during his arrest by police in Minneapolis on May 25. Four police officers were later charged over his death.

“We’re dealing with a lot of racism, a lot of social injustice and police brutality,” James said. “It’s something that we want to have people’s ears open to. We have ears open now, but we cannot stop.

“We’ll keep our foot on the gas as we’ve been doing over the past two months.”

New Orleans guard Jrue Holiday meanwhile said the anthem demonstration had been a unifying moment.

“It felt like we were able to bring people together,” Holiday said. “Two teams, who were about to go out there to battle, we can also come together to fight for something, and I feel like that was huge.

“That’s one of the reasons why I feel like [the players] came back and the league wanted us to come back.”

Pelicans team-mate Zion Williamson agreed. “It was emotional because all of us (were) there together as one, doing something we believe in,” Williamson said.