Lawmaker warns OKC Thunder players against kneeling, threatens team’s tax benefits

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Oklahoma City Thunder guard Chris Paul gives instruction to teammates in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Boston Celtics, Sunday, Feb. 9, 2020, in Oklahoma City. (AP Photo/Kyle Phillips)

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – An Oklahoma state representative is warning Oklahoma City Thunder players against kneeling during the national anthem, and is threatening to reexamine the Thunder’s tax benefits if players kneel.

On Friday, Rep. Sean Roberts (R-Hominy) released a statement in which he describes NBA players kneeling during the national anthem as an “anti-patriotic act” that shows “disrespect to the American flag and all it stands for.”

Roberts went on to say that Black Lives Matter has “ties to Marxism” and is trying to “destroy nuclear families.”

He then issued a warning against the Thunder and threatened to reexamine tax benefits that the Thunder receive from the state.

“If the Oklahoma City Thunder leadership and players follow the current trend of the NBA by kneeling during the national anthem prior to Saturday’s game, perhaps we need to reexamine the significant tax benefits the State of Oklahoma granted the Oklahoma City Thunder organization when they came to Oklahoma. Through the Quality Jobs Act, the Thunder is still under contract to receive these tax breaks from our state until 2024,” Roberts said in the statement.

The 2019-20 NBA season was interrupted in March by the COVID-19 pandemic. The season officially restarted on Thursday, July 30, and NBA teams are kneeling in unison during the national anthem.

picture of NBA players kneeling with Black Lives Matter written on the floor
LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLORIDA – JULY 31: Players, coaches and staff kneel during the national anthem before the game between the Memphis Grizzlies and the Portland Trail Blazers at The Arena at ESPN Wide World Of Sports Complex on July 31, 2020 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

The Thunder’s first official game since the restart will be at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 1, against the Utah Jazz.

Sister station KFOR reached out to Thunder personnel for a statement in response to Roberts’ warning and threat, but did had not received a response as of Friday evening.

Roberts’ full statement is as follows:

“By kneeling during the playing of the national anthem, the NBA and its players are showing disrespect to the American flag and all it stands for. This anti-patriotic act makes clear the NBA’s support of the Black Lives Matter group and its goal of defunding our nation’s police, its ties to Marxism and its efforts to destroy nuclear families.

If the Oklahoma City Thunder leadership and players follow the current trend of the NBA by kneeling during the national anthem prior to Saturday’s game, perhaps we need to reexamine the significant tax benefits the State of Oklahoma granted the Oklahoma City Thunder organization when they came to Oklahoma. Through the Quality Jobs Act, the Thunder is still under contract to receive these tax breaks from our state until 2024.

Perhaps these funds would be better served in support of our police departments rather than giving tax breaks to an organization that supports defunding police and the dissolution of the American nuclear family.”

Rep. Sean Roberts
Colin Kaepernick, the first professional athlete to kneel in protest against police brutality.

The act of kneeling during the anthem began in 2016 with former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, whose intention was to protest police violence against black people.

Kaepernick first protested police brutality and the killing of unarmed black people by remaining seated on the 49ers’ team bench during the playing of the anthem before the 49ers’ third pre-season game of the 2016 season.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder,” Kaepernick said following the game.

Kaepernick later had a conversation with Nate Boyer, a former NFL player and U.S. military veteran.

Kaepernick asked Boyer if there was a way in which he could protest police brutality without offending members of the military.

Boyer suggested that Kaepernick kneel for the anthem.

Kaepernick took a knee during the anthem for the first time before the start of the 49ers’ fourth and final preseason game of 2016. He knelt during the anthem prior to every game that season. While most players stood for the anthem, other players in the NFL joined Kaepernick’s protest by also taking a knee.

Kneeling during the anthem became a divisive issue across the nation, with many Americans praising it as a peaceful protest against a longstanding problem within law enforcement. However, many other Americans decried Kaepernick’s actions as disrespectful to the United States flag and military members past and present.

Professional athletes are once again taking a knee during the anthem. It is the latest protest against the death of George Floyd and other unarmed black people at the hands of police.

George Floyd died while in police custody on May 25 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Photo Credit: Courtesy Ben Crump Law Firm

Floyd died on May 25 beneath the knee of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.

Chauvin and three other officers attempted to arrest Floyd and took him down to the ground.

Chauvin put his knee down on the back of Floyd’s neck. Floyd pleaded for his life, saying he could not breathe and calling out to his dead mother. Chauvin kept his knee pressed down against the back of Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds.

Floyd’s death ignited massive protests across the nation, as well as in major cities across the globe.

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