Pope Francis hosts National Basketball Association players at the Vatican to discuss ending racism

NBA stars will meet with Pope Francis in Vatican City to continue to advocate for social justice reforms

NBA players meet with Pope Francis, discuss social justice

With training camp set to open on December 1, players and union officials had to squeeze the trip in now.

NBPA Executive Director Michele Roberts also attended the meeting together with Sherrie Deans, Executive Director of the NBPA Foundation and Matteo Zuretti, the NBPA's Chief of International Relations.

"You're champions", Pope Francis said.

During the meeting, the players discussed social efforts they are involved in related to the Black Lives Matter Movement and also offered the pope a book that outlines many of their community and social initiatives as well as an Orlando Magic jersey and a Black Lives Matter T-shirt.

Both Brown and Korver were players who refused to take part in scheduled basketball games for the Milwaukee Bucks in August after the shooting of Blake, as a protest of police brutality.

Korver has been outspoken in his desire to help fight anti-Black racism and was part of the Milwaukee Bucks team that sat out a post-season game to protest the shooting of Jacob Blake by police in Kenosha, Wis., prompting strikes in solidarity across the National Basketball Association and other major sports leagues. The Bucks' impromptu strike inspired a wave of such actions across several sports. Brown is the victim of a high-profile case of police brutality.

Brown sued officials in Milwaukee after getting taken to the ground, shocked with a Taser and arrested during an encounter with police in 2018, contending in that lawsuit that police used excessive force and targeted him because he is Black.

Regarding the decision to skip that game, Brown told Francis that it was "raw and emotional" for players on the Bucks.

"We are extremely honored to have had this opportunity to come to the Vatican and share our experiences with Pope Francis", Korver said.

Isaac, an ordained minister, was one of the only players and coaches to stand for the national anthem during the NBA's restart in Orlando. The U.S. and other governments, along with human rights groups, say the prison-like facilities are meant to divide Muslims from their religious and cultural heritage, forcing them to declare loyalty to China's ruling Communist Party and its leader, Xi Jinping.

Information from The Associated Press is included in this report.

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