NBA players Marco Belinelli, Sterling Brown, Jonathan Issac, Kyle Korver, and Anthony Tolliver met the Pope at the Vatican Monday morning for a private audience. Pope Francis was interested in learning more about how the NBA players were bringing attention to social justice issues and economic inequality and what the players ideas were for the future. An assistant to Pope Francis reached out to the players to arrange a meeting. According to ESPN, the Vatican invited the NBPA and once they heard the news agreed to meet and scheduled an overnight flight Sunday in order to make the meeting in Italy.
Honored and Inspired. Thank you, @Pontifex. "Today's meeting validates the power of our Players’ voices. That one… https://t.co/zh0ydeFmLA— NBPA (@NBPA)1606151772.0
The Monday morning meeting took place at 11:45 a.m. and lasted about 30 minutes at the papal library of the Apostolic Palace. After the meeting the players and union officials were treated to a tour of St. Peter's Square. Tolliver who plays for the Memphis Grizzlies took to his Instagram expressing how the trip felt like a dream. In a statement released from the National Basketball Players Association, Tolliver stated:
Today's meeting was an incredible experience,
Anthony Tolliver also stated:
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.
The players shared their experiences of the social and economic justices they and their communities have faced. They also gave the Pope gifts like a commemorative basketball, a union-produced book highlighting the efforts players have taken and an Orlando Magic jersey.
In the same statement Korver of the Milwaukee Bucks stated:
We are extremely honored to have had this opportunity to come to the Vatican and share our experiences with Pope Francis,
Korver continued by sharing:
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.
Last year, Korver wrote a powerful essay focusing on racism and white privilege. Over the summer, Korver and his teammate Sterling Brown of the Milwaukee Bucks made the decision to sit out of a post-season game against Orlando Magic after the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Back in 2018 Brown was part of a high-profile case of police brutality and settled a civil rights lawsuit against the city of Milwaukee and the police department. Brown told the pope:
It was raw and emotional for our team,
Issac of the Orlando Magic is an ordained minister, did not kneel but who was one of the only players and coaches to stand for the national anthem during the NBA's restart in Orlando.
The players plan to return to the U.S. on Tuesday morning as the players continue to make a change concerning these pressing matters.
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