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NBA players make overnight trip to Vatican for discussion with Pope on social justice issues

2 years 10 months 21 hours ago Monday, November 23 2020 Nov 23, 2020 November 23, 2020 9:04 AM November 23, 2020 in News
Source: ESPN

Some of the sports industry's most prominent figures have made their way to the heart of Rome for a Monday morning discussion with Pope Francis.

According to ESPN, six representatives from the National Basketball Players Association (NBA) are meeting with the 83-year-old head of the Roman Catholic Church to discuss issues related to equal rights.

ESPN reports that one of the pope's assistants contacted the NBA last week, requesting information on how players were working to bring awareness to problems related to social justice issues and economic inequality, as well as how they planned to move forward in addressing these concerns.

The NBA's response, ESPN says, was swift. It scheduled an overnight flight Sunday to make a private meeting between the pope and some of its key figures happen.

The discussion is scheduled to began at 11:45 a.m. (local time) Monday morning at the Vatican and will include Kyle Korver and Sterling Brown; Jonathan Isaac of the Orlando Magic; Anthony Tolliver, the union's secretary-treasurer; Marco Belinelli; and Michele Roberts, executive director of the players' union.

Attending the meeting was a squeeze for most of the players, as training camp kicks off in just over a week, on Dec. 1. 

The reason for the pope's interest in the NBA's response to social justice issues may be related to its players vocal support of the "Black Lives Matter," "Say Their Names," "Equality," and "Enough" movements.

For example, the league and union agreed to paint "Black Lives Matter" along one sideline and nearly every player and coach took a knee during the playing of the national anthem before games.

In addition to this, Brown and Korver chose to sit out a postseason game against the Orlando Magic in the wake of the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, in Kenosha, Wisconsin. This impromptu strike ignited a series of similar sit-outs in the sports world.

Brown himself is a victim of police brutality. In early 2018, eight Milwaukee police officers surrounded him outside a Walgreens to investigate a potential parking infraction and during the incident, one forced Brown to the ground while another used a Taser on him.

Only weeks before the Monday meeting with the pope, Brown settled a civil rights lawsuit he filed against the city of Milwaukee and its police department after the defendants agreed to a $750,000 payment.

The meeting between these key member of the sports world and one of the most popular religious leaders on the world scene has been kept very quiet, ESPN notes. However, players are expected to discuss its outcome with the media shortly after it is concluded.

The six NBA representatives will return to the U.S. Tuesday morning.

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