Nov 24, 2020 - World

Pope Francis meets with NBA players to discuss social justice drive

Pope Francis meets a delegation of five NBA players and officials from the National Basketball Players Association at the Vatican.
Pope Francis meets with NBA players and officials from the National Basketball Players Association at the Vatican on Monday. Photo: Vatican Media

Pope Francis met with five NBA players and National Basketball Players' Association officials at the Vatican on Monday to discuss their efforts to address "social and economic injustice and inequality," per an NBPA statement.

Driving the news: The pope, who invited the delegation to the Vatican, spoke in support of nonviolent anti-racism protests following the killing of George Floyd in May, and also in an upcoming book.

What they're saying: "This meeting validates the power of our Players’ voices," NBPA executive director Michele Roberts, who was at the Vatican with NBA players Marco Belinelli, Sterling Brown, Jonathan Isaac, Kyle Korver, Anthony Tolliver and two other association officials, said in a statement.

  • "That one of the most influential leaders in the world sought to have a conversation with them demonstrates the influence of their platforms," Roberts added. "I remain inspired by our Players' continued commitment to serve and support our community."

The big picture: In the new book, "Let Us Dream: A Path to a Better Future," based on his conversations with biographer Austen Ivereigh, the pope praises Black Lives Matter protesters while denouncing demonstrations against restrictions implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • "Some groups protested, refusing to keep their distance, marching against travel restrictions – as if measures that governments must impose for the good of their people constitute some kind of political assault on autonomy or personal freedom," he said in one excerpt, per the Guardian, criticizing those who claim "that being forced to wear a mask is an unwarranted imposition by the state."
"You'l never find such people protesting the death of George Floyd, or joining a demonstration because there are shantytowns where children lack water or education, or because there are whole families who have lost their income. On such matters they would never protest; they are incapable of moving outside of their own little world of interests."

Of note: While Francis has expressed support for Black Lives Matter protests, he said the push to remove statues of historical racist figures was "amputating history."

  • "A free people is a people that remembers, is able to own its history rather than deny it, and learns its best lessons," he said.

Go deeper: Pope Francis condemns "tragic" killing of George Floyd

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