The Suns and Toronto Raptors formed a circle at center court and linked arms during both the American and Canadian national anthems prior to Wednesday night’s tip-off, which Phoenix would go on to win 123-115.
The sign of unity comes after Wednesday’s events that saw the U.S. Capitol stormed by a violent mob that delayed Congress from certifying the results of November’s presidential election.
“It’s a sign of and symbolic of the unity and togetherness we want to be a part of as a league and as a country” Suns head coach Monty Williams said via Zoom after the game. “We understand that these are some different times … This is a much different time than any of us are used to and during these times, we have to stick together.
“So we’re going to have to compete against these guys at a high level, but we can also be unified at a high level. I hope that that’s what was seen tonight and nobody will try to hijack that platform and try to call it something else.”
Before the game, the Suns head coach told point guard Chris Paul that he would support whatever decision the team came to. However, Williams wanted to make sure to communicate with the Raptors, which led to a meeting between Paul, Devin Booker, Jae Crowder and Toronto point guard Kyle Lowry.
But Phoenix wasn’t the only place around the NBA that saw similar scenes.
In Miami, the Heat and Boston Celtics released a joint statement saying they were playing “with a heavy heart” in a game where most players and coaches knelt for the national anthem.
In Milwaukee, the Bucks and Detroit Pistons both took turnovers on their first possessions intentionally, with all 10 players on the court kneeling.
Wednesday’s events came one day after the announcement to not bring charges against the officer who shot Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Blake’s shooting was one of the many racial injustices and police brutality issues players focused on last season while in the bubble.
The NBA used to have a rule that required players and coaches to stand for the national anthem, but that rule was relaxed last year when the season resumed inside the Walt Disney World bubble.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.