In shift, US Jewish basketball star backs staying on court during anthem

SAITAMA, Japan — Sue Bird sees no contradiction with the US team staying on the court during the national anthem at the Olympics.

It’s a change for the four-time Olympic gold medalist and her WNBA teammates. During the WNBA season players usually leave the court to raise awareness for social justice before the anthem is played at games.

“You are wearing USA jerseys and it does change the conversation a little bit and what you’re representing,” Bird told The Associated Press after practice on Saturday. “With that, I don’t feel like a hypocrite in any way. Everyone knows where we stand. I don’t think it contradicts anything since we’re actually doing the work.”

Logistically it would also be difficult for the US to not be on the court for the playing of the anthem. Unlike WNBA games when it’s played about 10 minutes before tipoff, at the Olympics it’s done right before the start of games.

That doesn’t mean the women won’t use the Olympic platform to continue to raise awareness.

She and her Olympic teammates locked arms before three exhibition games in Las Vegas last week and she expects that to continue during the Tokyo Games.

Bird, who was a US flag bearer at the opening ceremony, believes people know where she and her WNBA teammates stand on social justice issues.

USA’s basketball player Sue Bird attends a training session during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama on July 24, 2021. (Thomas COEX / AFP)

“We all want our country to be a better place and that’s what this is about,” she said. “That’s an athlete’s mentality and there’s really no better people to do that than athletes. What do we do every single day? What do we talk about? Getting better. … I think we should approach our country that way.”

Bird, one of many Jewish athletes going for gold this summer, is competing in her fifth Olympic games in Tokyo. The 12-time WNBA All-Star has won gold at the last four Olympics with the US Women’s Basketball Team.

Bird — whose paternal grandparents immigrated to the US from what is now Ukraine in the early 1900s and changed their surname from “Boorda” to “Bird” — also holds Israeli citizenship.

Source Link: https://www.timesofisrael.com/in-shift-us-jewish-basketball-star-backs-staying-on-court-during-anthem/

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