Pope meets with NBA players' union delegation at the Vatican

  • Written by Junno Arocho Esteves, Catholic News Service
  • Published in International
Pope Francis meets with a delegation from the National Basketball Players Association during a private audience at the Vatican November 23 to speak about their efforts to address social and economic injustice and inequality in their communities. Photo: CNS/Vatican Media Pope Francis meets with a delegation from the National Basketball Players Association during a private audience at the Vatican November 23 to speak about their efforts to address social and economic injustice and inequality in their communities. Photo: CNS/Vatican Media

VATICAN CITY – A delegation representing the National Basketball Players Association, a union representing professional athletes from the NBA, met with Pope Francis and spoke with him about their work in promoting social justice.

The players association said the group meeting the pope November 23 included Marco Belinelli, a shooting guard for the San Antonio Spurs; Sterling Brown and Kyle Korver, shooting guards for the Milwaukee Bucks; Jonathan Isaac, power forward for the Orlando Magic; and Anthony Tolliver, a 13-year power forward and free agent who most recently played for the Memphis Grizzlies.

Korver said in a statement that the association was “extremely honored to have had this opportunity to come to the Vatican and share our experiences with Pope Francis” and that the pope’s “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.”

NBA players have been vocal on social justice issues throughout the year, especially after the shocking death of George Floyd by police officers in May sparked massive protests across the United States.

Before resuming the basketball season following its suspension due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the union and the NBA reached a deal to display social justice messages on their jerseys.

The NBPA said the meeting “provided an opportunity for the players to discuss their individual and collective efforts addressing social and economic injustice and inequality occurring in their communities.”

Michele Roberts, executive director of the NBPA, said in a statement November 23 that the meeting with the pope “validates the power of our players' voices.”

“That one of the most influential leaders in the world sought to have a conversation with them demonstrates the influence of their platforms,” said Roberts, who also was at the meeting. “I remain inspired by our players’ continued commitment to serve and support our community.”

“Today's meeting was an incredible experience,” said Tolliver, the free agent. “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.”