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A delegation of NBA players traveled to the Vatican on Monday to meet with Pope Francis to discuss the league’s efforts to combat social injustice.
The National Basketball Players Association sent five players–Kyle Korver, Jonathan Isaac, Marco Belinelli, Sterling Brown and Anthony Tolliver–to meet with the pope “to discuss their individual and collective efforts addressing social and economic injustice and inequality occurring in their communities,” the NBPA said in a news release.
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Sources told ESPN that an assistant to the pope initially reached out to set up the meeting because of his desire to learn about their recent work and future plans to address the ongoing issues.
“We are extremely honored to have had this opportunity to come to the Vatican and share our experiences with Pope Francis,” Milwaukee Bucks forward Korver said. “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.”
The meeting, which lasted about an hour in the papal library of the Apostolic Palace, was quickly set up with the season scheduled to begin on Dec. 22.
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“You're champions," Pope Francis said, according to The Associated Press. “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."
NBPA Executive Director Michele Roberts and Matteo Zuretti, the NBPA’s Chief of International Relations, were also in attendance.
“This meeting validates the power of our Players’ voices,” Roberts said. “That one of the most influential leaders in the world sought to have a conversation with them demonstrates the influence of their platforms. I remain inspired by our Players’ continued commitment to serve and support our community.”
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The audience was held days before a book comes out in which Pope Francis supports demands for racial justice, specifically the actions taken following the killing of George Floyd, who was Black, on May 25 while in the custody of Minneapolis police.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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