By John Denton
Oct. 2, 2017
MEMPHIS, Tenn. – United, the Orlando Magic will stand tonight for the national anthem.
Following a lengthy team meeting on Sunday where they formulated a plan to honor the national anthem and U.S. flag, focus on team unity and basketball and continue to build bridges through community service, Magic players will stand as a team during the playing of the “Star Spangled Banner’’ prior to tonight’s game against the Memphis Grizzlies.
“There’s injustice and we understand that. We want there to be that message, but for us it’s about this team,’’ Magic forward Aaron Gordon said. “It’s about unifying as a team, coming together and winning a basketball game. Off the court, we need to take action as far as being proactive. But as a basketball team we need to unify because we all come from different walks of life. Our message is love, caring and compassion for each other. We’re here to stand as a team and that’s what we’ve decided upon.’’
The decision is believed to be one that will last the entire season. The Magic’s regular season opens on Oct. 18 when they face the Miami Heat at the Amway Center.
Upon arriving in Memphis on Sunday afternoon prior to tonight’s 8 p.m. ET exhibition season opener, the Magic met in their downtown hotel to discuss the team’s plan of action for anthems. President of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman, GM John Hammond, head coach Frank Vogel and all of the Magic’s players attended the meeting and the decision to stand united was agreed upon.
“We let them talk about it and see how they felt and they decided to stand. They are going to focus their efforts by doing work in the community,’’ Vogel said. “A lot of guys spoke up, had good leadership and looked at all of the angles of it. It was a powerful meeting.’’
The meeting and discussion followed some 250 NFL players kneeling during the playing of the national anthem two weeks ago. Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started the kneeling practice during the anthem as a form of protest of the inequalities among the races.
According to those that attended the Magic’s meeting on Sunday, the team decided to keep the focus on the task at hand of playing basketball without distraction. A Magic squad that met with members of a Special Task Force unit out of Eglin Air Force Base following a practice last week vowed to continue to look at ways to make differences through their many hours of service in the Central Florida community.
“We’re going to stand united as a team,’’ Magic guard Terrence Ross said. “It’s about equality and showing that love can conquer all. That’s the way we’re going to handle tonight and we’re probably going to be neutral. With everything going on everybody will try and interpret it (differently), but I think the best thing for us to do is acknowledge it while staying true (to the team) and focus on the upcoming season. We have to show everybody the best example of love, unity and teamwork on the court. So that’s what we’re going to do tonight and try to get ready for the season.’’
Magic point guard Elfrid Payton, a fixture on the team the past three years and cornerstone going forward, addressed the anthem issue last week, saying he would prefer to try and influence change with his actions instead of a kneeling protest.
Payton was the winner of the 2016-17 Rich and Helen DeVos Community Enrichment award for his tireless work in Central Florida and Louisiana last year. Magic players, coaches, executives and staffers contributed more than 7,000 hours of community service last year, including work with local law enforcement, at-risk children and packing meals and supplies for hurricane victims in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.
Payton said the Magic can make more of a difference in the world through their actions.
“Those guys who took a knee, that’s cool and all, but me personally I’m all about getting out there and doing something,’’ Payton said last week. “We’re just trying to raise awareness and I feel like we’ve done that. … I’m more about solving problems.’’
Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Orlando Magic. All opinions expressed by John Denton are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Orlando Magic or their Basketball Operations staff, partners or sponsors.