Thursday, January 21, 2021

Five Black NBA Players Meet with Pope Francis to Discuss Social Justice Issues (Watch)

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Pope Francis meets a delegation of five NBA players and officials from the National Basketball Players Association at the Vatican. (HANDOUT / VATICAN MEDIA)

*Five NBA players and several officials from the National Basketball Players Association met with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Monday to discuss their work on social justice issues.

The trip was prompted by the Vatican reaching out to the players’ union to learn about their work for social change. The delegation included Orlando Magic forward Jonathan Isaac, Houston Rockets wing Sterling Brown and free agents Anthony Tolliver, Marco Belinelli and Kyle Korver. They gave the Pope an Orlando Magic jersey and a golden basketball.

After the meeting in the papal library of the Apostolic Palace, Tolliver called it an “incredible experience.” He added, “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.”

Korver, a 17-year NBA veteran who wrote a powerful essay about racism and white privilege last year, echoed Tolliver’s sentiment after meeting with the pope.

“We are extremely honored to have had this opportunity to come to the Vatican and share our experiences with Pope Francis,” Korver said. “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.”

Images from the meeting showed Pope Francis and the players sitting and standing next to each other, but not wearing masks. The players union tweeted that “players and NBPA staff members were required to undergo COVID-19 testing before meeting with Pope Francis.”

Watch video from the historic meeting below:

The gathering comes ahead of the December 1 release of Francis’ new book, “Let Us Dream: The Path to A Better Future.” In it, Francis supports demands for racial justice in the wake of the police-custody death of George Floyd.

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