Ben McLemore sounds off on 'misleading' TMZ story about his anthem thoughts

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<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nba/players/5158/" data-ylk="slk:Ben McLemore">Ben McLemore</a>, posing here with Kings fans in 2017, was traded back to Sacramento last month. (Getty Images)
Ben McLemore, posing here with Kings fans in 2017, was traded back to Sacramento last month. (Getty Images)

Sacramento Kings guard Ben McLemore issued a statement trying to set the record straight after a TMZ Sports headline misinterpreted his thoughts on social injustice protests during the national anthem.

Ben McLemore’s run-in with a TMZ Sports reporter

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When asked by TMZ about ESPN’s decision to return to its prior practice of not airing the anthem during its “Monday Night Football” broadcasts, McLemore said, “You should always represent our nation.” Asked by the TMZ reporter if he thought the NFL players’ message about racial inequality was getting lost in the anthem controversy, the former first-round pick from St. Louis added, “In their case, it’s getting lost, but for our sport, in the NBA, I think it’s not. We show appreciation to the nation.”

McLemore’s response to the TMZ headline

That was twisted into this TMZ headline: NBA’s Ben McLemore: “Kneeling NFL players … NOT REPRESENTING AMERICA.” That, very plainly, is not what he said. McLemore corrected TMZ on Twitter:

Here is his statement in full:

“It was brought to my attention that there is a story that misconstrued my thoughts about protesting and the National anthem and I’m compelled to clear this up. The headline is misleading and doesn’t match my thoughts or feelings on the matter. I can’t speak for the NFL, its players, or anyone else representing their league, and I certainly don’t know all of the rules the players are required to abide by.

“I stand during the national anthem because I believe in doing so, not because I think anyone is disrespecting their country by taking a knee. I never once said that. When I answered the reporter’s question about whether their message was being lost in translation, I was referring to the undeserved negative attention they received for protesting in the way that they chose. I understand they are protesting in the way they see most fit, and I have nothing but respect for those who take a stance and voice their opinions. Our country is built on that very principle. Everyone has their way of making a difference. This is their way of drawing attention to an incredibly important issue.

“To say I don’t sympathize with the plight of those at the receiving end of violence is extremely misguided, at best. Every year, I am actively involved in charity efforts (including the BMAC Stop the Violence weekend) that aim to shine a light on social injustice and violence. There couldn’t be a cause closer to my heart. The reality is that this injustice is rampant in our communities and needs to be eliminated. I want that to be very clear. I also want to say, I don’t have the answer. I don’t think anybody does at this point. I believe the best we can do is continue the conversation; continue the search for the answer, and try to arrive at a place where love and compassion for each other beat our hate.”

NFL and NBA policies for the national anthem

After former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started a movement by kneeling during “The Star Spangled Banner” to raise awareness about social injustice, the NFL announced a new policy this past spring that would require players to stand for the national anthem or stay in the locker room. Teams were called upon to enforce the policy, and after the Miami Dolphins suggested they would be penalizing players who kneeled during the anthem, the NFL Players’ Association filed a grievance. Last month, the NFL put its policy on hold, as both sides attempt to come to a resolution on the matter.

The NBA requires its players to stand for the anthem, and the league issued a memo to all teams restating the rule prior to last season. While there was some question as to whether NBA players would follow Kaepernick’s lead after LeBron James headlined a group of high-profile players in 2016 calling for action in response to a series of police-involved shootings. A number of teams opted instead to interlock arms during the anthem to demonstrate unity while following NBA guidelines.

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Ben Rohrbach is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

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