Pope Francis met with five NBA players in Vatican City early Monday morning to discuss the players’ work to raise awareness of social justice issues and labeled the five players as “champions,” according to the Associated Press.
The Woke Pope initiated the meeting by reaching out to the NBA players’ union last week, the two parties quickly scheduled a meeting from there.
The five players were Marco Belinelli, Sterling Brown, Jonathan Isaac, Kyle Korver and Anthony Tolliver. They were also joined by National Basketball Players Association Executive Director Michele Roberts and two other union executives, Sherrie Deans and Matteo Zuretti, according to a statement from the union.
”We’re here because, frankly, we’re inspired by the work that you do globally,” Roberts told the pope during the meeting in the papal library.
The players detailed “their individual and collective efforts addressing social and economic injustice and inequality occurring in their communities,” according to the union’s statement.
Belinelli addressed the pope in Italian, and the group presented the pope with a commemorative basketball, a union-produced book highlighting efforts players have taken and an Orlando Magic jersey.
”You’re champions,” the pope said. ”But 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.”
The meeting was held days before the release of a new book, titled “Let Us Dream,” in which Pope Francis supports demands for racial justice in the wake of the U.S. police killing of George Floyd and blasts COVID-19 skeptics and media organizations that spread alleged conspiracies. In the book, Francis is also said to criticize “populist politicians” who whip up rallies in ways reminiscent of the 1930s, and the hypocrisy of “rigid” conservative Catholics who support them.
”I was there to support my colleagues in their daily struggle in the United States, and not just for that,” Belinelli said later Monday on Twitter. ”I also went to show that athletes have an active responsibility in society and need to dedicate themselves toward changing things that don’t work. We athletes have a very big media platform and we’ve got to use it positively to reach where institutions are lacking.
”The pope had important words for us: We need to continue to be united, to operate as brothers, like a team, and to set an example for the younger generations,” Belinelli continued. ”The key is to remain humble. I will never forget this experience.”
Roberts said Pope Francis’s desire to meet with the players showed the “influence of their platforms.”
“We’re here because, frankly, we’re inspired by the work that you do globally,” Roberts told the pope during the meeting in the papal library, according to The Associated Press.