International News Nov 23, 2020 9:26 PM EST

Pope Francis hosts NBA players at the Vatican to discuss ending racism

Pope Francis reportedly requested the meeting with the players himself.

Pope Francis hosts NBA players at the Vatican to discuss ending racism
Noah David Alter Toronto
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A group of NBA players and union officials met with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Monday to discuss racism, NBC News reports.

Five players were present at the meeting, Marco Belinelli, Sterling Brown, Jonathan Isaac, Kyle Korver and Anthony Tolliver, as well as three union executives.

Pope Francis reportedly requested the meeting with the players himself.

The meeting mostly consisted of the NBA players and Pope Francis praising each other. The Pope described the NBA players as "champions" and praised them for their humility, saying that by "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."

“We are extremely honored to have had this opportunity to come to the Vatican and share our experiences with Pope Francis,” Milwaukee Bucks player Kyle Korver remarked. “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.”

"We're inspired by the work that you do globally," NBA union executive director Michele Roberts told the Pope.

Houston Rockets player Sterling Brown also discussed sitting out of a playoff game against Orlando to protest the shooting of Jacob Blake. Jacob Blake was shot in the back seven times in front of his children by police after resisting arrest and attempting to retrieve something, possibly a knife, from his car.

The group was represented by San Antonio Spurs player Marco Belinelli, who addressed the Pope in Italian. The Pope received gifts from the players including an Orlando Magic jersey, an elaborately decorated basketball, and a union-produced book presenting the players' efforts towards social justice.

The meeting was held days before Pope Francis's next book is set to be released. The book titled "Let Us Dream" discusses his opposition to racism and right-wing populism, the latter of which he uses as a pretext to criticize conservative Catholics he describes as "rigid." He also condemns the destruction of monuments, suggesting that they are an attempt to "purify" history.

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