On Monday morning, Pope Francis met with five NBA players and several National Basketball Players Association officials at the Vatican for a private meeting to discuss social justice issues.
The unprecedented meeting came about quickly after an assistant of Pope Francis contacted the players’ association. The pope wanted to learn more about the players’ recent efforts to bring awareness to social justice and inequality issues. The union agreed to the private meeting and abruptly scheduled an overnight flight to Italy on Sunday.
The delegation of NBA players included Kyle Korver, Sterling Brown, Jonathan Isaac, Anthony Tolliver, and Italian-born Marco Belinelli. In 2018, Brown was the victim of police brutality when cops tased him at a Walgreens. Additionally, he and Korver were both with the Milwaukee Bucks earlier this year when they boycotted a playoff game. In fact, the whole team protested the shooting of Jacob Blake, which led to the entire league boycotting temporarily.
Monday’s meeting with Pope Francis lasted about an hour. The group met at the papal library of the Apostolic Palace in Vatican City. Afterward, the players and union officials took a tour of St. Peter’s Square.
Pope Francis Calls the Players “Champions”
The players shared their recent experiences with social justice issues in America with the Pope. In addition, the group presented Pope Francis with a few NBA-related gifts. The gifts included a commemorative basketball, a union-produced book highlighting players’ efforts for social change, and an Orlando Magic jersey.
“You’re champions,” Pope Francis told the group. “Also giving the example of teamwork, you’ve become a model, giving that good example of teamwork. But, always remaining humble … and preserving your own humanity.”
During the meeting, Brown shared his story with the pope. He also spoke about what the Bucks went through in the NBA’s bubble following the police shooting of Jacob Blake. He talked about the decision not to play their playoff game against Orlando.
“It was raw and emotional for our team,” Brown said to the pope.
Following the private audience at the Vatican, Kyle Korver touched on what an honor it was to be part of the meeting.
“We are extremely honored to have had this opportunity to come to the Vatican and share our experiences with Pope Francis,” Korver explained. “His 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.”