NBA players met with Pope Francis at the Vatican to discuss social justice issues

Liz Roscher
·2 min read

The NBA’s work on social justice has caught the eye of one of the holiest men on Earth, the Vicar of Christ himself.

A delegation of five NBA players and several National Basketball Players Association officials traveled to the Vatican on Sunday night to meet with Pope Francis. The topic at hand? How NBA players have taken on social justice issues.

Sharing knowledge with the Pope

The NBA and WNBA have taken the lead among all professional sports leagues in tackling social justice issues, and the Pope wanted to hear more. NBPA officials told ESPN that the Pope was especially interested in learning about how the players brought national attention to these issues and what their plans are to continue that work in the future.

Five players traveled to the Vatican to meet with the Pope: Sterling Brown, Kyle Korver, Marco Belinelli, Jonathan Isaac and NBPA secretary-treasurer Anthony Tolliver. Brown and Korver were both part of the Milwaukee Bucks team that decided to walk out of their playoff game in late August, and that decision sparked a league-wide walkout that spread to multiple sports. Brown has been a victim of police violence and racial profiling, and recently reached a settlement with the city of Milwaukee over a 2018 incident in which he was tased and arrested by Milwaukee police officers for a simple parking violation.

Sep 8, 2020; Lake Buena Vista, Florida, USA; Members of the Milwaukee Bucks including forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (grey sweats) kneel during the playing of the national anthem before game five in the second round of the 2020 NBA Playoffs against the Miami Heat at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
The NBA's work on social justice has led to a meeting between a delegation of NBA players and Pope Francis. (Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

“We are extremely honored to have had this opportunity to come to the Vatican and share our experiences with Pope Francis,” Korver said in an NBPA press release. “His openness and eagerness to discuss these issues was inspiring and a reminder that our work has had a global impact and must continue moving forward.”

The meeting, which took place on Monday at 11:45am local time, came together very quickly. Pope Francis’ office reached out to the NBPA just last week about meeting with NBA players. Since training camps start Dec. 1 (and the NBA season begins on Dec. 22), the NBPA began working immediately to get the meeting scheduled before players would be unavailable.

The delegation, which also includes NBPA executive director Michele Roberts and several other NBPA officials, is scheduled to travel back to the U.S. on Tuesday.

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