SAN DIEGO – NFL players by the dozens knelt or locked arms from London to Los Angeles during Sunday's playing of the national anthem, but you haven't — and won't — see the same from the Timberwolves or presumably the NBA.
The NBA, for one thing, has had a longtime rule that requires players, coaches and trainers align and stand in a dignified posture while the national anthem is playing before games.
Timberwolves coach and president of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau meets with his players before every season and emphasizes his expectations, for another thing.
He said he encourages his players to speak their minds on social issues and social justice, and he praised young star Karl-Anthony Towns' August essay on racism in America published by the Players' Tribune. In it, Towns opined on the Minnesota motorist Philando Castile's shooting death by a police officer; violent protests in Charlottesville, Va., in which a woman was killed; and criticized President Donald Trump's response to Charlottesville, among other things.
But Thibodeau also makes it clear he wants his players to do what he considers right.
"For me, just having been a part of Team USA and you see what the military has done for us and what this country means and stands for, I think it's a respect thing," Thibodeau said. "I think we all should stand for the national anthem. This is my personal belief about the anthem. It's important to me."
Trump on Friday used profanity to describe an NFL player who protests during the anthem's playing and called for NFL owners to fire any players who do so. He later tweeted that he had rescinded a White House invitation to Golden State star Stephen Curry after Curry said he didn't want to go there to celebrate his team's 2017 NBA championship.
Trump's actions sparked a war of words with NFL and NBA players and display of protests on NFL sidelines Sunday. Superstar LeBron James on Twitter called Trump a "bum" and many NFL owners released statements criticizing what they deemed Trump's divisive words. The Pittsburgh Steelers remained in their locker room during the anthem of their game against Chicago in what their coach Mike Tomlin called a sign of unity rather than divisiveness.
The Seahawks and Titans followed the Steelers' lead, with no players or coaches on the field for the national anthem before their games.
"I've seen everything that has happened," Towns said after a training-camp practice. "The president, what he said, NBA players."
In his essay, Towns wrote "there are more of us than there are of them," referring to people who live their lives with tolerance and love.
"We have to love each other more and we have to show it more," he wrote. "I know that for sure."
In San Diego, he repeated his message, this time by speaking up.
"I wrote the article more just to spread out love," Towns said. "Most of the problems the world has can be fixed with love and respect for each other. I think that's one of the biggest thing we're lacking in humanity today. I've seen a lot of things that happened recently with the president. You can't make America great if no one believes what you have to say. If you're a person, especially the president of our country and you want to enforce your laws and rules but no one believes in your laws and rules, that doesn't seem more of a presidency. It seems like more of a dictatorship."
Thibodeau said he wants his players to be socially conscious and respectful. He said he read Towns' essay and approved.
"I thought he expressed his opinion; that was fine," Thibodeau said. "I thought it was well thought out. It expressed how he felt about something. It was important to him. I thought it was very respectfully done, so I had no problems with it."
Wolves veteran guard Jimmy Butler said he and his teammates have discussed such issues, but ...
"I don't think y'all should know what we talk about word for word," Butler said. "We've spoken on it. We choose to do what we want to do. You have your rights, your freedoms. You join in if you feel the need to."
As for the Twitter wars between the nation's leader and some of professional sports' biggest stars, Towns suggested everyone act a little bigger.
Referring specifically to the back-and-forth between Curry and the president and the Warriors' subsequent announcement that they won't make an NBA champions' traditional White House visit this coming season, Towns said, "That sounds more like children's play to me. I leave it to them, but there's a lot more things we need to worry about than Steph Curry saying he doesn't want to go to the White House."