Five NBA players traveled to the Vatican on Monday, November 23 to discuss social justice issues with none other than Pope Francis.
The Vatican had extended an invitation to the players union earlier this month in order to learn more about what they were doing to tackle social justice issues and discuss future plans.
The five players who traveled to the Vatican were Kyle Korver, Sterling Brown, Anthony Tolliver, Marco Belinelli, and Jonathan Isaac. They were also joined by Michele Roberts, who is the executive director of the National Basketball Players Association.
“I thought it was a fraud email that I got,” Korver told The New York Times.
He continued, “I called Michele right away. I was like, ‘Is this for real?’ She said, ‘Yes, it is and would you like to come in like two days?’ This came together really quick.”
Both Kover and Brown were members of the Milwaukee Bucks team that decided to not participate in their playoff game in August following the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
The meeting took place at about 11:45 a.m. local time and lasted for about 30 minutes. The players gave the pope a book documenting their social initiatives, as well as a Black Lives Matter t-shirt.
“We are extremely honored to have had this opportunity to come to the Vatican and share our experiences with Pope Francis,” Korver said in an NBPA press release.
“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.”
Kover also shared, “He said sport is such an opportunity to unify, and he compared it to a team, where you have a common goal and you’re working together, but you all use your own personalities.”
Though both the NBA and the WNBA have been advocating for social justice reform for years, their actions were amplified this summer after a number of black people were killed or seriously injured at the hands of a police officer.
And, following the meeting with the pope, the players feel energized to continue pushing for change in the coming years.
“This meeting 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,” Roberts shared.
“I remain inspired by our Players’ continued commitment to serve and support our community.”