If Kobe Bryant was still a player, he wouldn't stand for all the outrage over protests that have recently dominated headlines. He'd kneel.
On the Hollywood Reporter's Awards Chatter podcast, Bryant said he'd "kneel" during the national anthem, a step no NBA player has taken thus far and a step that would violate the NBA's rule requiring all players to stand for the national anthem. The NFL has no such rule.
Bryant is no stranger to voicing his personal opinion when it comes to matters of social injustice. After a grand jury chose not to indict any officers in the death of Eric Garner in 2014, Bryant led a demonstration where his teammates at the time joined in by wearing black shirts with white lettering that read, "I can't breathe," during warm ups. The quote was a reference to the words Garner said to police officers before his death. Only one teammate at the time did not don the shirt, Robert Sacre, but similar demonstration took place on other NBA teams back in 2014.
For the 2016-17 season, the Los Angeles Lakers locked arms to show solidarity with those kneeling for racial equality and social justice, while also being mindful of not disrespecting the American flag or those most closely associated with it. For the second year in a row, the team has taken to locking arms with the same goals, which is still short of what Bryant says he would do if he was still a player.
Bryant's words carry greater weight with today's NBA players and inside the Lakers' locker room in particular. Bryant's public willingness to state that he would take a knee may impact how NBA players choose to demonstrate in the future.
The obvious criticism of the choice to lock arms in showing support for those kneeling is that by failing to drop to one knee in support, inherently, the outward messaging hints that taking a knee is in some way disrespectful or goes too far. If even supporters of the movement cannot take a knee, then how can neutrals support to movement?
More to the point of demonstrations, locking arms as a protest has simply not generated nearly as much attention as taking a knee during the national anthem. Generally speaking, protests are designed to generate attention.
For example, the Lakers have been locking arms for the national anthem for every game since October of 2016. At the one year anniversary of their locked arms protest, most fans of the team did not even realize that the Lakers had been protesting all this time.
Obviously, protesting is a deeply individual action, and there is no authority on what is the right or wrong way to protest. Bryant, though, says he would kneel.